Determining Spousal Maintenance During Illinois Divorce


Prior to states instituting alimony laws, many spouses felt trapped in bad marriages simply because they knew they would have difficulty entering the workforce and supporting themselves following divorce. Spousal maintenance and support is designed to provide certain divorcing spouses with temporary income while they adapt to single life. Maintenance, however, is often a contentious issue, and the laws governing it are very subjective. A spousal maintenance lawyer with practical experience and insight can provide realistic guidance in Chicago divorce cases where maintenance is an issue. At Downs Law Offices, our attorneys have fought for spouses on both sides of this issue. With more than 50 years of combined experience, we have seen firsthand how these types of cases play out in court and can advise you accordingly.


Unlike child support, spousal maintenance is not guaranteed. In fact, with more and more households in which both spouses work, it has become increasingly less common for courts to award maintenance. Nevertheless, certain circumstances justify spousal maintenance, such as when one spouse suffers a disability or gave up a career in order to raise children or be a homemaker. In these cases, a court may award temporary support for that spouse while he or she prepares to enter the workforce. If that spouse 's age, education and health make finding work unlikely, permanent spousal support may be appropriate. One spouse may also seek temporary maintenance, costs and attorney fees - sometimes called alimony pendente lite, or APL - while the divorce process is ongoing.


Unlike child support, setting spousal maintenance is very subjective and somewhat unpredictable. To avoid such unpredictability, many divorcing spouses choose to set or waive alimony through a pre- or postnuptial agreement or a marriage settlement agreement. If the issue of maintenance does reach the court, however, it is largely left to the judge's discretion based on the consideration of several factors:

  • Each spouse's assets
  • Each spouse's income
  • Each spouse's earning capacity
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The spouses' lifestyle during marriage
  • Support from one spouse that enhanced the earning capacity of the other
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • Any special needs each spouse may have

Once set by the court, spousal maintenance can be changed under the right circumstances. Modifications would likely be justified if a payee spouse returns to the workforce or otherwise receives a significant boost in income, a payee spouse is remarried, a payor spouse becomes disabled, a payor spouse experiences a decrease in income or other similar circumstances.

Whether you are a payor or payee, spousal support and maintenance can affect your finances for years after divorce. Our divorce lawyers at Downs Law Offices can help you negotiate alimony issues to avoid the uncertainty of litigation and present a compelling argument on your behalf should the matter reach court.

Helping you get on your feet after divorce

If you are contemplating divorce or negotiating a marital agreement, call our Chicago office today at 312-781-1963 or contact Downs Law Offices online for help understanding your rights. We are centrally located in the Loop with easy access to public transportation and onsite parking.