Modification of Maintenance: Change in Employment Status
The current blog, Modification of Maintenance: Change in Employment Status, is Part III in a series of blogs written to explain the new Maintenance law in Illinois. The Maintenance statute of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act Section 510 was amended so as to take affect this January 1, 2016. Maintenance formerly known as alimony is the right of one spouse to receive income from the other spouse. This blog, which shall be published in several parts, seeks to create an understanding as to how the new modification of maintenance statute will operate and what it means to an obligor. This law affects all divorces happening in Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows and Palatine, and all other areas in Illinois. These blogs will provide crucial information concerning the necessary act of modifying a maintenance obligation that has previously been set.
Section 750 ILCS 5/510 (a-5) provides several factors for the courts to consider when determining if a modification of maintenance request is proper or not. The first factor is:
“any change in the employment status of either party and whether the change has been made in good faith”
This is an important factor in that it looks at the reason behind the paying parties loss of a job. There have been situations where the paying party had a good job while the divorce was on going and then the court makes an award of maintenance that happens to be much higher than the paying party had anticipated. If the paying party quits the good paying job and takes on a job that pays less in hopes of lowering the maintenance obligation, that party may be in for a rude awakening. The reason is that courts have held that the reason for a decrease in income, and more specifically, the loss of job must be taken into consideration; and, if the party that quits his job and obtains a lower paying job in order to thwart paying maintenance does so for that purpose, the court may not reduce the maintenance amount and keep it at the higher amount. The reason is that the party who quit his job did not have ‘clean hands’ and did not operate in good faith. Thus, the party who now has a lower paying job may still be stuck with the higher maintenance award.
However, if a party looses his job as a result of job layoffs and company downsizing, that party should in that instance be able to lower the maintenance amount. The reason is that he lost his job not as a result of a bad faith move to thwart the maintenance but as a result of factors that outside of his control.
The statute also contemplates that the Court can look at the employment status of the party receiving maintenance and any changes that may have occurred when determining whether to decrease maintenance or increase it. It would seem that in a situation where the party who is receiving a modest maintenance amount quits her good paying job in hopes of receiving more maintenance, the court may very well not award that behavior as well.
In our next blog we will look closely at the factors that support a modification of maintenance.