Maintenance, formally known as alimony or spousal support, is a common element of a divorce settlement. While maintenance could take several forms, the most common form is a monthly financial award paid by a higher income spouse to a lower income spouse. The maintenance award is based on the circumstances of both spouses at the time of the divorce, most importantly, the income of both parties. However, it is common for the circumstances of one or both people to change after an order or judgment has been reached. As such, maintenance modification can be allowed by a judge if a party can show that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred.
Illinois Court Considerations for Maintenance Modifications
While many divorce judgments dictate a timeline for maintenance payments that is often unchangeable, the amount of said payments are often modifiable. Courts consider various factors when making the decision to modify maintenance. These include:
- Changes in the employment status of either party
- Efforts made by the party receiving maintenance to become self-supporting
- Impairment of earning capacity of either party
- The tax consequences of the maintenance payments
- The duration of the maintenance payments relative to the length of the marriage
- The increase or decrease in each party’s income
The possibility of future events are not considered by the court, unless that specific event was contemplated in the court’s order or agreement by the parties.
Termination of Maintenance by the Court
Maintenance can also be terminated by the court, namely by:
- Death of either party
- The remarriage of the party receiving the maintenance
- A finding that that party cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis
- Expiration of the timeline dictated in the Marital Settlement Agreement
Maintenance Modification Procedures
If either party to a divorce believes that maintenance should be terminated or modified, he or she can file a motion to modify maintenance that lays out the grounds for modification or termination with the same court that handled the judgment of dissolution. Filing a motion to modify maintenance should be done thoroughly, as the party filing the motion has the burden of proof regarding a substantial change in circumstances. Proper service to the other party is also essential, as this type of motion usually occurs years after the initial judgment and sometimes may be unexpected.
Kogut & Wilson, L.L.C. is highly skilled in aiding clients with maintenance modifications and is prepared to help parties navigate the post decree process.