How is Maintenance (Alimony) Determined in an Illinois Divorce Case?

By Scott Tzinberg

Maintenance (formerly called alimony) is a financial issue in divorce cases where one party may have to pay spousal support to the other.  There are two primary steps when addressing the issue of maintenance:

  1. Determine if it is a case where maintenance applies.
  2. If yes, then how much and how long will the maintenance be paid.

Is this a maintenance case?

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides several factors for a court to consider when determining if the case is one where maintenance should be awarded. These factors are the following:

  1. the income and property of each party, including marital property apportioned and non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance as well as all financial obligations imposed on the parties as a result of the dissolution of marriage;
  2. the needs of each party;
  3. the realistic present and future earning capacity of each party;
  4. any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having forgone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;
  5. any impairment of the realistic present or future earning capacity of the party against whom maintenance is sought;
  6. the time necessary to enable the party seeking maintenance to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment, and whether that party is able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or any parental responsibility arrangements and its effect on the party seeking employment;
  7. the standard of living established during the marriage;
  8. the duration of the marriage;
  9. the age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities, and the needs of each of the parties;
  10. all sources of public and private income including, without limitation, disability and retirement   income;
  11. the tax consequences of the property division upon the respective   economic circumstances of the parties;
  12. contributions and services by the party seeking maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse;
  13. any valid agreement of the parties; and
  14. any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.

The Court applies these factors to the facts of the particular case. No one factor is more relevant than the other. After its analysis, it is determined if the case is or is not a “maintenance case.” If yes, then it must be determined how much maintenance will be paid and how long it will be paid for.

How much and how long?

Two formulas (one for amount and one for duration) were implemented in January 2015 and then refined in January 2016. These formulas have given attorneys and parties better guidance in how this issue will be determined.  These formulas apply only to cases where the combined income of the parties is less than $250,000.

Formula for amount

The formula for amount of maintenance is as follows:

30% of gross income/paying party  – 20% of gross income/receiving party.

For example, if the paying party earns $125,000 per year and the receiving party earns $25,000 per year, the formula would look like this:

$37,500 – $5,000 = $32,500.00 annual maintenance ($2,708.33 per month)

One caveat to this rule is that after the calculations have been completed, the receiving spouse cannot end up with more than 40% of the parties combined gross income. In the example above, the receiving party will end up with $57,500 of the parties combined income of $150,000 (38%) so this is acceptable under the formula.

Formula for duration

The formula for duration of maintenance relates to the duration of the marriage. The longer the duration of the marriage, the longer the maintenance. “Duration of the Marriage” is measured from the date of the marriage through the date the divorce was filed.

To determine the duration of maintenance, you take the duration of the marriage and apply it to this chart:

Marriage duration Maintenance duration
5 years or less: .20 of the marriage
More than 5 years but less than 10 years: .40 of the marriage
More than 10 years but less than 15 years: .60 of the marriage
More than 15 years but less than 20 years: .80 of the marriage
More than 20 years: permanent maintenance or
Equivalent to duration of marriage

For example, if a couple was married on 6/1/2000 and a divorce was filed on 8/1/2010, you would take the duration of the marriage (10 years, 2 months or 122 months) and then multiply by .60. This results in the maintenance duration being 73.2 months (6 years, 1 month).

Over $250,000

As mentioned, the formulas for amount and duration only apply to cases where the combined income of the parties is less than $250,000.00. If the combined income is over this threshold, the Court will still apply all the maintenance factors to the case to determine if maintenance should be awarded but then will bypass the formulas and use its own discretion to determine the amount and duration.


While the aforementioned is the general rule, there are always exceptions to the rules that one can raise in favor or against the award or maintenance. For example, the Court is still afforded discretion with regard to the formulas and can elect, if the facts support such a conclusion, that the amount and duration be set outside of the guidelines.


While the formulas minimize the uncertainly at certain stages of a maintenance case, if you have a case where you may be eligible to receive maintenance or may have to pay, it is important you speak to an attorney and evaluate how the facts of your case may be analyzed under the above factors and formulas.

Categories: Divorce and Separation.