New spousal maintenance guidelines will go into effect soon

Legislation is designed to bring uniformity to maintenance awards

New spousal maintenance formulas and guidelines for divorces in Illinois are set to go into effect on January 1, 2015, according to the Kane County Chronicle. The guidelines will help courts determine appropriate maintenance amounts and duration periods for support payments. The legislation was passed by Illinois lawmakers as a way of bringing greater uniformity and predictability to spousal support awards, which critics complain differ drastically even between similar cases.

Greater consistency

Currently, spousal support amount and duration has largely been left up to the discretion of judges. Critics have complained that because of so much judicial discretion, spousal maintenance awards have become too unpredictable, varying widely throughout the state.

The legislation designed to bring greater clarity to the spousal maintenance process follows similar moves made by Florida, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, according to Chicago Now. The law gives judges guidelines they must follow when awarding spousal support in cases where a marriage lasted for less than 20 years and the combined income of the two spouses is less than $250,000.

New formulas

The new formula for calculating support amounts is fairly straightforward. The court will take 30 percent of the payer's gross income and subtract 20 percent of the payee's gross income. However, the final amount cannot exceed 40 percent of the spouses' combined income, so the final figure may be reduced in order to bring it down to that 40 percent figure.

Spousal maintenance duration is calculated based on the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting less than five years, for example, the support duration will be 20 percent of the marriage's length. That figure increases incrementally for longer marriages. Support duration for marriages lasting 15-20 years, for example, will be 80 percent of the marriage's length. Courts will retain discretion in awarding support for marriages lasting longer than 20 years, in which cases permanent spousal maintenance will still be possible.

Family law concerns

While the new formulas and guidelines bring greater clarity to the spousal maintenance process, they are also an important reminder of how quickly and often family law can change in Illinois. In order to keep on top of the latest legal developments and how they may affect one's own family law concerns, it is important to reach out to a qualified family lawyer. Knowledge and experience of the law is often the key ingredient in achieving a satisfactory outcome in a divorce. With expert legal advice, people going through a divorce, or who have any other family law concern, will have the assurance and guidance they need moving forward.