Illinois alimony laws have changed significantly in recent years. In 2016, the so-called Modern Family law effectively transformed spousal support determination. For the most part, judges use a formula to determine the amount and duration of payments. However, some subjective elements remain, as outlined below.
Then, beginning January 1, 2019, the federal government flipped alimony tax consequences. For several decades, alimony payments were tax-deductible and alimony recipients had to include these payments in their tax returns. Now, payments are nondeductible and obligees (people receiving alimony) need not report these payments as income.
Laws have changed, but the underlying philosophy and purpose of spousal support have not changed. Depending on the facts and circumstances, these payments usually help obligees attain economic self-sufficiency. So, a Lincolnshire family law attorney usually includes alimony payments in the property settlement.
Spousal Support Eligibility
There is a presumption in Illinois law that spouses are ineligible for alimony. However, that presumption is quite weak. Any favorable evidence in any of the following areas is usually enough to overcome the no-alimony presumption:
- Income disparity,
- Non-economic contributions to the marriage,
- Earning potential disparity,
- Length of the marriage,
- All income sources, including non-marital property awards, and
- Agreements between the parties.
Obligees must establish economic need by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That is the lowest standard of proof in Illinois law.
Amount and Duration of Payments
As mentioned, a formula usually determines the amount and duration of payments. Illinois law usually sets the amount of payments at 30% of the obligor’s income minus 20% of the obligee’s income. The result cannot exceed 40% of their combined gross income. Typically, the duration of payments is a multiplier based on the length of the marriage.
Judges may deviate from the formula if the combined income exceeds a certain level, if the obligor is self-employed or otherwise has an unpredictable income stream, or if either party receives non-cash compensation, such as stock options.
If the guidelines do not apply, judges typically use the aforementioned subjective factors to determine the amount and duration of payments.
Modifying Spousal Support
If either party’s financial circumstances significantly change, the judge could modify the amount and/or duration of payments.
Salary and cost-of-living increases or decreases could support a successful motion to modify. Income changes are often significant, in that they often exceed 10% of the party’s income. Cost-of-living increases or decreases are harder to establish, because these changes are usually much more incremental.
The obligor’s retirement does not automatically end alimony obligations. Generally, retirement is not unanticipated. People get older and retire. Additionally, retirement is not always involuntary. Many people accept early retirement packages.
Likewise, an obligee’s new relationship does not necessarily end alimony payments. The obligor must prove the relationship is at least semi-permanent and involves some shared financial matters, such as a joint checking account or a major joint purchase.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer
Alimony matters are not always entirely straightforward. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Lincolnshire, contact Delaney Heckman. We have multiple offices in Chicagoland.