Illinois divorce courts primarily consider need when determining amounts of alimony or spousal support. Many factors go into determining the needs of both members of the dissolved marriage. These factors include age, the length of the marriage, and the ability of the person seeking maintenance to be self-sufficient.
A court may award maintenance until the person requesting it is able to acquire enough education or training to become self-sufficient. If that person will be solely responsible for the care of young children after the divorce, a judge may determine that it is not practical for that parent to attend school until the children are older. In those cases, a court might award maintenance to continue until it is practical for that person to attend school, undergo job training, or reenter the workforce. However, if the person seeking maintenance is elderly or disabled, a judge may award permanent maintenance.
Courts must also consider the financial ability of the spouse paying alimony and determine whether he or she can continue paying. The court will look at the incomes of both parties, but a spouse will not necessarily or automatically receive maintenance if the other spouse earns significantly more money. If both spouses earn enough money to take care of themselves, the court will usually address inequities in income through the division of property.
Alimony and spousal support decisions are made independently of child support decisions. Unless approved by a court, the non-custodial parent may not withhold child support payments from the custodial parent for denial of visitation.
Illinois courts use relatively simple guidelines to determine amounts of child support payments. Although specific percentages and amounts may vary from case-to-case, courts in Illinois use the following percentages of net income as set forth under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act:
- 20% for one child
- 28% for two children
- 32% for three children
- 40% for four children
- 45% for five children
- 50% of net income for six children or more
The courts may consider factors besides family income and must weigh all considerations of the children’s reasonable needs. For example, keeping a child at his or her present daycare facility might be considered a reasonable need, so the non-custodial parent may be required to help pay for daycare expenses. In addition, the courts expect parents to make reasonable attempts to contribute to a child’s medical expenses. The court may order a non-custodial parent to include a child on a health insurance policy if that parent has coverage through work.
If parental income or custody arrangements change after the court has determined payment amounts, a non-custodial parent may need to petition the court for a modification. For example, a parent who loses a job may need to request a lowered amount or ask the court to increase the other parent’s contribution.