A new public act dramatically changes how spousal maintenance is determined for divorcing couples whose combined gross income is less than $250,000.
The law, P.A. 98-0961, which was crafted by the ISBA Family Law Section Council, creates a formula for calculating maintenance based on the gross income of the parties and the length of the marriage. Up till now, judges calculated maintenance without using a statutory formula similar to the one that applies to child support awards, instead relying on a list of factors that appear at sections 504 and 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. As a result, maintenance decisions vary widely, and lawyers have found it difficult to predict what a court will do when awarding maintenance.
The new formula will change that, once a court makes the threshold decision that maintenance is appropriate in a given case. Although judges aren’t required to use the formula, they must make a finding explaining why they did not.
Under the formula, a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s gross income minus 20 percent of the payee’s gross income, not to exceed 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the payee’s gross. Here's an illustration of how the math works.
Assume the soon-to-be-ex-husband grosses $50,000 a year, and his wife earns $30,000. Thirty percent of $50,000 is $15,000, and 20 percent of $30,000 is $6,000. Subtract $6,000 from $15,000, and voila – the husband owes the wife $9,000 a year in maintenance. Simple enough.