Maintenance (or Alimony) in the State of Illinois

February 14, 2023

Maintenance, also called alimony, involves one spouse potentially paying the other for financial support after divorce. I am asked a lot about whether it has to be paid, when its paid and for how long. So here is a breakdown about maintenance in the State of Illinois.

What is Maintenance in Illinois?

Simply put, maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support is a payment from a higher-earning former spouse to a lower-earning former spouse. Here is an example. Jane is an executive at  large corporation and earns $375,000. Her soon to be ex, Bob, is a carpenter and earns $55,000 a year. After the divorce, Jane might have to pay Bob maintenance for a period of time. How long Jane will pay and how much is determined either privately or by the Court.

How Does the Court Calculate Maintenance in Illinois?


  • Formula and Factors: Illinois uses a formula for maintenance. It considers:


    • Length of the marriage. This includes the time when the couple was living apart.
    • Income and earning potential of each spouse
    • Standard of living during the marriage
    • Age, health, and resources of each spouse
    • Contributions to the marriage (including homemaking)


  • Judge’s Discretion: While there’s a formula, the Judge ultimately makes the decision if there is not an agreement. The Judge can even look at other factors not listed in the formula.  Based on the example, if Bob also has a trust fund from his grandmother that gives him $3,500 a month, Bob might not get maintenance.

When Could Maintenance Be Ordered?

  • Need and Ability: The higher earner must earn enough and the lower earner not earn enough. Looking at the example above, Jane would probably pay maintenance.
  • No Guarantees: The judge might not grant maintenance even if conditions seem to favor it.
  • Duration: Maintenance can be short-term or even for the payer’s lifetime, depending on the situation. It is determined by the law.

Other Types of Maintenance

  • Lump Sum: The court might order a single payment instead of ongoing support.
  • Property Settlement: The way assets are divided might compensate for the need for ongoing support.
  • Negotiated Agreement: In uncontested divorces, the couple can decide on the amount and duration of maintenance (or if any at all).

When Does Maintenance End?

  • Set Time Period: The court order specifies the end date. It can be agreed on or the Court will use the formula.
  • Recipient Remarries or Cohabitates: Changes in the recipient’s relationship status might end the payments.
  • Major Financial Shifts: If either spouse’s financial situation changes significantly, the court might adjust the award.

Additional Points

  • The Maintenance Law is Gender Neutral: Either spouse might be ordered to pay maintenance in Illinois.
  • Cohabitation/Palimony: Living with a new partner might affect payments, but you won’t get court-ordered support if you weren’t formally married.

Why You Need a Skilled Divorce Lawyer

Navigating maintenance awards is tricky. An experienced Illinois divorce attorney can:

  • Help you understand your likelihood of receiving or paying maintenance.
  • Draft solid legal agreements and handle the paperwork.


Contact me at to learn how I can support you through the process. You can call my office at 618-726-2671 or reach out through my website.


Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or relying on this information. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult with a qualified attorney.