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Family Law: Length of Maintenance (Alimony)


The duration of maintenance is now calculated per 750 ILCS 5/504 Section (b-1) (1) (B). This applies to Cook County cases which includes the targeted audience in Palatine, Arlington Heights, and Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

The section now deals directly with the question of the duration that maintenance formerly known as alimony should be paid. The new section states as follows,

“The duration of any award under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies: 0-5 years (.20 or 20%); 5-10 years (.40 or 40%); 10-15 years (.60 or 60%); or 15-20 years (.80 or 80%). For a marriage of 20 or more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order either permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage”

This section now creates a mathematical formula that is fairly easy to apply when determining how long maintenance should be. The court still has discretion in long term marriages; i.e., those marriages that are 20 or more years in duration, to either make maintenance (alimony) permanent or to make the maintenance (alimony) last as long as the marriage itself.

As an example of the application of the maintenance provision. Let’s say that the parties are married for a period of 9 years, the domestic relations judge in applying the formula would simply multiply 9 times .40. The result is then 3.6 years of maintenance.

In cases where the parties were married for longer time periods the multiplication factor increases, thereby producing a markedly longer maintenance duration. For example, a 17 year marriage would have a multiplier of .80 or 80%, which would result in a maintenance of 13.6 years.

For cases of marriages that are 20 years or longer, it is the opinion of this attorney that the judge will refer to the age of the receiver spouse to determine if the maintenance should be permanent. For example, if a couple marries in their early twenties and gets divorced in their early forties, the judge would not necessarily want to award a spouse in his/her early forties permanent maintenance but may find it quite appropriate to award that person maintenance equal to the length of time that the parties were married. The reason is that the younger receiver spouse will have more time available to him or her to get or finish a college degree or to update his or her skills and get back into the workforce.

On the other hand, when you have a situation where the parties were married for let’s say 20 years and they were married in their early thirties and the receiver spouse was out of the workforce for that period of time, the judge would have a much easier time determining that permanent maintenance is appropriate. The reason being is that a spouse who is now in his or her early fifties will not have the same possibilities of returning to work and earning a substantial income.

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