Apply for divorce and you may end up talking with your lawyer about alimony payments. Also known as maintenance, alimony is a common consideration in U.S. divorce proceedings. It is ultimately up to the court to decide who makes maintenance payments, how much those payments will be, and how long they have to continue.
In Illinois, judges look at a lengthy list of factors to determine alimony payments. The top five are listed below, compliments of the ABM Family Law firm. ABM markets itself as a Chicago family law firm specializing in divorce, custody, visitation, and other related matters.
1. Income and Property
Both parties in a divorce are likely to walk away with at least some income and property. It may be limited, and judges will look at that possibility. Judges consider both individual and jointly owned income and property.
We tend to think of this particular factor in terms of husbands having a larger source of income and wives depending on it. But things have changed over the last few decades. It is no longer a given that a husband will earn more than his wife. It is not even given that a husband will have any income at all.
2. Divorce-Related Financial Obligations
Divorce may introduce new financial obligations to one or both parties. For starters, both may have hefty legal bills. Their attorneys may have logged an awful lot of hours working on their cases. In especially messy divorces that take years to settle, legal bills can be pretty significant.
Any divorce-related financial obligations have to be considered in light of how they affect individual income and property. If one party is left with more costly obligations, the court will consider that in any maintenance payment decision.
3. Individual Financial Needs
Next, courts must consider individual financial need. What will it take for each party to live independently? What is each one currently paying in rent or mortgage payments, utilities, insurance, and so forth? And if there are children involved, there will be costs associated with caring for them.
This may be the most difficult part of determining maintenance payments. Why? Because what one party deems a need the other party may look at as a want. Courts have to figure out which is which. In addition, they have to find that middle ground between one party leaning too heavily on the other for financial support and forcing both parties to eventually stand on their own.
4. Present and Future Earning Capacity
Each party’s present and future earning capacity has to be considered so that the court doesn’t unduly jeopardize one party’s finances. Also note that Illinois law requires that the two parties present realistic projections to the court. It is ultimately up to the court to decide whether or not said projections are reasonable.
5. Damage to Earning Capacity
The fifth factor is any damage to either party’s earning capacity as a result of the relationship or divorce. For example, the person requesting maintenance may claim that being married prevented them from getting a college degree. Should the judge agree that person’s reduced earning power could demand higher maintenance payments.
In terms of the person making the maintenance payments, there may be a certain amount of damage to their earning capacity as a result of the divorce. Courts have to consider that as well.
There are other factors courts consider including the length of the marriage, the age and health of both parties, and more. Needless to say, determining alimony payments is not a walk in the park.