Beginning in January 2015, Illinois will have new spousal support or maintenance guidelines. Previously maintenance awards were inconsistent in amount and duration of support. This revised statute will add some uniformity to the dissolution process. Prior to adopting guidelines, judicial inconsistency and unpredictability made it difficult to offer and accept settlement proposals on support issues. An attorney would not want to agree to settlement terms for duration or amount of maintenance without exploring the judge’s thoughts at pretrial or trial.

The new statutory guidelines establish parameters for determining both the amount and duration of maintenance awards for cases where combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 per year. The amount of maintenance will be 30 percent of the payor’s gross income less 20 percent of the payee’s gross income, subject to a cap to ensure that the payee does not receive more than 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income.

For example, if a payor’s annual gross income is $80,000 and the payee’s annual gross income is $40,000, the guidelines suggest annual maintenance of $16,000. (30% of $80,000 = $24,000, less 20% of $40,000 = $8,000). This would result in the payee receiving $56,000 of the combined gross of $120,000, which would be 46 percent. Due to the cap, the maintenance guidelines would be $8,000, resulting in the payee receiving $48,000 in gross income, which is 40% of the combined gross incomes of $120,000.

Regarding duration, the maintenance award is to continue for a period of time determined by multiplying the percentage times the length of marriage: 0-5 years is 20 percent; 5-10 years is 40 percent; 10-15 years is 60 percent; and 15-20 years is 80 percent. For marriages that last 20 years or longer, the court can either order permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period of time equal to the length of the marriage.

Similar to child support awards, judges will be allowed to deviate up or down from these guideline amounts, provided the judge makes findings explaining its reasons for not adopting the guidelines.

The revised maintenance statute allows the court to bar maintenance after a fixed term for a marriage of less than 10 years.