How Is Spousal Maintenance Determined?

Beginning in 2015, Illinois switched to a simple formula for calculating spousal maintenance that eliminates much of the guesswork and discretion for judges to award maintenance.  The formula is included below:

FORMULA FOR MAINTENANCE AWARD: DURATION

To determine the maintenance award duration – use the following:

(Marriage 0-5 years) x (20%)
(Marriage 5-10 years) x (40%)
(Marriage 10-15 years) x (60%)
(Marriage 15-20 years) x (80%)
Marriages of 20+ years – court shall order either permanent maintenance or the length of the marriage

FORMULA FOR MAINTENANCE AWARD: AMOUNT

(30% of the payer’s income) – (20% of the receiver’s income)

*The receiver’s new income cannot exceed 40% of the parties’ combined income

IN PRACTICE

When I went back through my FAQs and looked at this, I realized that our context for these formulas was sorely lacking.  I've taken the liberty of adding a simple calculation example below.  Please note that the example given is not necessarily easy, it is merely a simple example that takes into account all the laws so that I can explain them in common sense terms for real people:

Imagine Alex and Beth have been married for 12 years.  Alex works as an office manager making $85,000 annually.  Beth works in sales, and her usual take-home is about $45,000 annually.  We take 30% of Alex's income, coming to $25,500 annually.  We then subtract 20% of Beth's income from that, $9,000, and reach an award of $16,500 maintenance annually.  We pretend Beth now makes $45,000+$16,500 and check if that is more than 40% of the parties' combined income.  We do that by dividing $61,500/$130,000.  We see that Beth's new income is 47.3% of the parties' income, so we adjust her award until it's only 40% of the income.  This means Alex is going to pay Beth only $7,000 annually.  He will pay this amount for 60% of the life of the marriage, or for a little over 7 years.