Spousal Support Can Be Permanent

Spousal Support Can Be Permanent


Spousal support (also known as alimony or maintenance) can be temporary, long-term, or even permanent in Illinois. You generally see cases of permanent maintenance when a couple has been married for a long time and one spouse doesn’t really have the ability to support themselves, either because of their age or health, or because they did not work or pursue a career during the marriage (a stay-at-home parent, for example). The amount of permanent maintenance depends on the financial circumstances in each case.

There is no requirement that maintenance be awarded in every case; a judge may deny a request for spousal support. If you’ve only been married a few years, you’re less likely to get spousal support. I’d say if you’ve been married fewer than five years, it’s not very likely. And generally speaking, the longer you’ve been married, the longer you can get maintenance. Of course, it still depends heavily on your financial situation when you were married.

Sometimes spouses can agree to an amount on their own or through negotiation between their attorneys, rather than leaving it up to a judge. We don’t recommend signing any agreement on spousal support without talking to an attorney; you can get stuck with what you sign, even if you later learn that it’s way off base. You can ask the court to modify support payments down the road, but a change in payments is reserved for cases where there has been a significant change in circumstances (serious illness, job loss, etc.). Generally, permanent support ends if the spouse receiving payments gets remarried.

Other types of support:

Rehabilitative maintenance is a type of temporary spousal support. You generally see this type of support in cases where one spouse needs help getting on their feet after a divorce. Again, a common example is a spouse who stays home with the couple’s children and perhaps needs time to find a job or get training in order to re-enter the workforce. It’s meant to only be in place until the spouse receiving payments becomes financially independent.

Temporary maintenance can be ordered while a divorce case is pending. It generally ends when the divorce becomes final, although rehabilitative or permanent support might be ordered in its place.

Spousal maintenance is just one part of a divorce agreement. It can be negotiated along with property division and the sharing of marital debt. Perhaps the spouse who would qualify for maintenance would prefer to take a larger share of the property instead, and little or none of the debt. It’s all up for discussion. 

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