Maintenance (formerly known as alimony) in Illinois is the payment of financial support each month from one spouse to another while their divorce is pending or once it is final. Illinois courts usually award maintenance to a spouse who depends upon the other spouse’s support. The judge wants the dependent spouse to become self-supporting in time, and to be able to maintain the reasonable standard of living that existed during the marriage. The purpose of maintenance is to help the lower-earning spouses transition from married to single life and get back on their feet.

How maintenance is calculated varies from state to state. Illinois courts issue alimony awards in amounts and durations as they deem just and equitable.

There are two types of maintenance in Illinois: temporary and permanent. Generally, permanent maintenance is only awarded upon the dissolution of long-term marriages, i.e., lasting at least 20 years. For shorter marriages, temporary maintenance may be awarded.

Permanent maintenance is indefinite, but in no way unlimited. A judge may modify or end permanent maintenance due to any material change in circumstances. Permanent maintenance might end upon an event or date, e.g., when the paying spouse retires, either spouse dies, or the recipient spouse gets remarried.

Temporary alimony is paid during divorce proceedings and terminates when the divorce is finalized. Temporary maintenance can amount to temporary custody, child support, possession of the marital home, and restraining orders. One party might request temporary support for several reasons.

Rehabilitative alimony (or reviewable maintenance when paid for a longer amount of time) is ordered only until the lower-earning spouse becomes self-supporting through education or skills training. This type of maintenance may be periodically reviewed by the court.

Maintenance may be paid in a one payment or in installments. Maintenance in gross is a lump sum to be paid at the time of divorce. It is a set amount that cannot be modified, and is usually ordered in place of the division of property. Maintenance that is set to end on a specific date or when some event happens is referred to as fixed term alimony.

Not every divorce requires the payment of spousal support. A judge may grant a maintenance award for either spouse in any amount and for any period of time he/she deems fair, and sometimes, that means no maintenance award at all. The court has discretion to order temporary or permanent maintenance to either spouse without regard to marital misconduct. The court will use a set of factors to determine whether spousal support is necessary and the amount of payments, which include:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • The standard of living established during the marriage,
  • Each person’s income,
  • Each person’s property and assets,
  • Each person’s debts and liabilities,
  • Each person’s needs,
  • Each person’s present and future earning capacity,
  • Each person’s age and health (both physical and emotional),
  • Each person’s gross income,
  • Any impairment to one spouse’s earning capacity due to that spouse’s devotion of time to domestic or parental duties, or forgoing education or career opportunities due to the marriage,
  • Tax consequences of the property division,
  • The time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire the appropriate education, training, and/or employment, and whether that party is able to support him/herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child making it appropriate that he/she not seek employment,
  • Contributions and services by the party requesting maintenance to the education, training, or career of the other spouse,
  • Any valid agreement of the parties, and
  • Any other equitable factor that the court deems just and relevant.

See 750 ILCS 5/504(a) for full text of the law.

To determine the amount of support payments in each case, the courts use a specific guideline formula, which is based on the length of the marriage and the income of each person. (See 750 ILCS 5/504(b-1) for full text of the law). Remember, many divorce judgments do not end up including maintenance awards.

Judges use the formula if two conditions are satisfied: (1) the parties’ combined income is less than $250,000, and (2) the paying spouse does not already have to pay child support or maintenance from a previous relationship.

The formula dictates that a maintenance award would equal 30% of the higher-earning spouse’s income minus 20% of the other spouse’s income. The award might need to be reduced so that it does not equal more than 40% of the couple’s combined income.

The duration of the maintenance award is determined by multiplying the length of the marriage by the corresponding multiple in this chart:

Length of MarriageMultiple
0 to 5 Years.20 (20%)
6 to 10 Years.04 (40%)
11 to 15 Years.60 (60%)
16 to 20 Years.80 (80%)
20+ YearsThe court may order permanent maintenance or make the duration of maintenance payments equal to the length of the marriage, i.e., use a multiple of 1.0 (100%)

The guideline formula is not compulsory, so the court may deviate in determining both the duration and amount.