Alimony vs. spousal support—what’s the difference? How can they affect your financial situation after a divorce, and how much support can you expect to pay or receive? In this article, our team at Peskind Law Firm in St. Charles, IL, shares what you need to know to help you through your legal proceedings.
What’s the Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support?
There is no difference between alimony and spousal support. Most people associate alimony with men supporting women after divorce proceedings, but this term is older and more outdated. Illinois law actually prefers the term “spousal maintenance” instead of spousal support or alimony.
Divorce laws in IL have changed over the years, and terminology has changed with them. While alimony describes financial support from one divorced spouse to another, spousal support is more up-to-date and has more appropriate gender connotations.
When you think of alimony, you probably think of an innocent spouse (usually the woman) and an at-fault spouse (often the man). The person at fault has legal obligations to help support the dependent, innocent victim of the divorce. However, today, both parties are often responsible in a divorce—it’s not typically a perpetrator-victim situation.
Spousal maintenance doesn’t imply gender roles or innocence. It gives the sense of one spouse continuing to care for the other even after they divorce. This term also works better for no-fault states like Illinois.
How Much Spousal Maintenance Can You Expect?
In most divorce and family law cases, one party wants to know how much spousal support they can expect. Various factors contribute to the total alimony amount, and you’ll want to check your local court rules to calculate it accurately. However, in general, the following aspects of a legal divorce will affect spousal maintenance:
- How long the marriage has lasted
- Each spouse’s standard of living while married
- Each party’s resources, income level, and earning capacity
- Each person’s age, health status, and physical capability
- What a person may need following the divorce to get a job, such as education, skills development, and training
- Property and taxes
- Which spouse supported the other or their children more
Judges typically use a formula to calculate monthly spousal support payments. The formula helps determine alimony payments as follows:
- Calculate the payer’s and recipient’s net annual income
- Subtract 25% of the recipient’s income from 33.33% of the payer’s income
- Divide this number by 12 for the monthly payment amount
- Note that the supported ex-partner’s net annual income and spousal maintenance cannot exceed 40% of both parties’ combined annual income
For example, let’s say one spouse earns $150,000 annually and the other earns $20,000 annually. Twenty-five percent of $20,000 is $5,000 and 33.33% of $150,000 is $49,995. If you subtract those two numbers, you’ll get an annual spousal support payment of $44,995 (or approximately $3,749.59 per month).
How Long Do Spousal Support Payments Last?
Spousal support can last a few months or a lifetime, depending on the type of settlement. You may also submit petitions to the court to terminate support under certain circumstances.
There are four general types of spousal maintenance in Illinois:
- Temporary Spousal Maintenance. A judge will typically grant temporary spousal support while a divorce is pending. If you and your spouse separate before finalizing the divorce, one of you may need financial support.
- Rehabilitative Spousal Maintenance. Fixed-term spousal support lasts for a set amount of time. It’s often a way to ensure a spouse gets financial assistance until they can be self-supporting.
- Reviewable Spousal Maintenance. Under reviewable spousal maintenance or spousal support, a spouse will receive support indefinitely. However, the court will review the payments periodically to determine if they remain necessary.
- Permanent Spousal Maintenance. Permanent spousal support lasts indefinitely. No termination date or periodical court review is set. However, the court may terminate this type of alimony upon petition and other circumstances.
When Should You Contact a Family Law Attorney?
You should contact a family law attorney as soon as you think you might get a divorce. An experienced lawyer can help you learn about your legal options and obligations to make an informed decision that benefits you and your kids. Paying spousal maintenance or receiving it can drastically change your financial situation.
Before the divorce, family law attorneys can help you plan for the road ahead. You can ask questions like “alimony vs. spousal support—what’s the difference?” and “how much can I expect to receive or pay?” and get solid answers. You’ll have the tools and knowledge to proceed confidently.
Our experienced attorneys at the Peskind Law Firm can help you calculate spousal support payments and make plans for single life. The process goes much more smoothly when you receive legal guidance from someone specializing in divorce cases.
Consult an Experienced Divorce Attorney at Peskind Law Firm
Alimony vs. spousal support is an easy question to answer. However, you may have many more challenging questions as you head into your settlement negotiations. At Peskind Law Firm, we’re here to help—call us at (630) 444-0701 to schedule a consultation in St. Charles, IL.