Spousal Maintenance Duration Changes Coming to Illinois in 2018

Earlier this year, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 2537, which will change spousal maintenance payments in Illinois and will come into effect in 2018.

There are a number of statutory guidelines which affect how maintenance is calculated for divorcing couples. Currently, the statutory guidelines apply to any couples where the combined income of the spouses is $250,000 or less. In 2018, this number will be raised to $500,000. This means that any couple with a combined income of $500,000 or less will be subject to the statutory guidelines for maintenance calculation.

If the combined income is higher than $500,000 then the court does not have to adhere to the statutory guidelines and may award maintenance according to its discretion, taking into account a number of factors such as the parties’ earning potential and standard of living.

Duration of Maintenance

The statutory duration for maintenance in 2018 will likely decrease for many divorcing couples. The statutory length of a maintenance obligation equals the length of the marriage multiplied by spousal maintenance multiplier. The multiplier works by ensuring that maintenance is shorter for shorter marriages and longer for longer marriages. The chart below describes the current multiplier

Length of MarriageMultiplier
Less than 5 Years.20
5-9 Years.40
10-14 Years.60
15-19 Years.80
20 or More YearsMaintenance Duration Equal to Length of Marriage or Permanent (Court’s Discretion)

For example, the duration of maintenance for a marriage lasting 4 years is 4*.20=0.8 years and a marriage lasting 16 years is 16*.8=12.8 years.

Beginning in 2018, instead of the multiple changing by .20 every 5 years the multiplier will increase by .04 from the 5th year of the marriage until the 20th year of the marriage. The chart below explains the multiplier changes:

Length of MarriageMultiplier
Less than 5 Years.20
6 Years.28
7 Years.32
8 Years.36
9 Years.40
10 Years.44
11 Years.48
12 Years.52
13 Years.56
14 Years.60
15 Years.64
16 Years.68
17 Years.72
18 Years.76
19 Years.80
20 Years or MoreMaintenance Duration Equal to Length of Marriage or for an Indefinite Term (Court’s Discretion)

Under the new system the duration of maintenance for a marriage of 4 years remains 0.8 years. But consider our 16 year marriage described above. Under the new law, the duration of maintenance for a 16 year marriage is 16*.68=10.88 years. This is nearly 2 years less of maintenance than the current laws would award a recipient spouse.

This new law adds some precision to maintenance duration, where a divorcing couple will no longer expect a significantly higher multiplier from one year to the next. When it comes to staying aware of the constantly shifting environment of divorce law, there is no substitute for intelligent and efficient legal counsel.