Consistency, Clarity, and Calculators: New Formula for Spousal Maintenance in Illinois

A new Illinois law effective on January 1st of this year establishes for the first time specific formulas for calculating the amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments after a divorce.

While child support payments in Illinois have long been determined by statutory factors and formulas, spousal maintenance awards have been subject to wild inconsistency, leading to similarly situated couples receiving vastly different outcomes and making it difficult for the individuals and their attorneys to predict and plan for the ultimate order that will govern their obligations.

The amendments to Sections 504 and 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provide guidelines for judges in the event that they determine that a maintenance award is appropriate (based on the factors listed in Section 504(a)).

Calculating the Maintenance Amount

Notably, the new guidelines only apply where the combined gross income of the parties is less than $250,000 and no multiple family situation exists. For couples within that threshold, the new law provides that a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s gross income, minus 20 percent of the payee’s gross income.


  • Husband’s annual gross income = $100,000 (30% = $30,000)
  • Wife’s annual gross income = $45,000 (20% = $9,000)
  • $30,000 – $9,000 = $21,000 in annual spousal maintenance to wife.

One nuance is that the new law provides that regardless of the result of the foregoing calculation, the resulting award cannot be greater than 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the payee’s gross income. The higher the payor’s income is in relation to the payee’s, the less likely the 40-percent rule is to limit the payee’s award.

Duration of Maintenance

How long a spouse will be required to pay maintenance is based on the duration of the marriage.  A judge is to use the following formula in determining how long payments must continue:

  • Married 0 – 5 years = 20% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 5 – 10 years = 40% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 10 – 15 years = 60% of the duration of the marriage
  • Married 15 – 20 years = 80% of the duration of the marriage
  • 20 or more years = court has discretion to order either permanent maintenance or maintenance equal to the length of the marriage.

Under this formula, for example, a 5-year marriage would result in a 1-year maintenance obligation, while a 10-year marriage would result in 4 years of maintenance payments.

Judge May Deviate From Guidelines But Must Explain Why

While a judge is not required to follow the new guidelines, if they deviate from them they must specifically state in their findings the amount of maintenance or duration that would have been required under the guidelines and the reasoning for any variance from the guidelines.

In addition to the new formulas, the amendment to the law also:

  • Prevents a judge from ordering unallocated maintenance unless the parties agree to it;
  • Authorizes a judge to permanently bar maintenance for marriages of 10 years or fewer;
  • Specifies that judges must subtract maintenance payments from the payor’s income for purposes of calculating child support.

The hope is that the new law will make it easier to predict and determine spousal maintenance amounts and thus reduce the amount of both acrimony and uncertainty involved in finalizing such amounts during divorce proceedings.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the new law or spousal maintenance generally, please give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form to arrange for a consultation.

This article has been prepared by the Law Offices of Louis R. Fine for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.