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IL divorce lawyerAlimony or spousal maintenance refers to financial support that one spouse pays to the other spouse after divorce. “Temporary relief” spousal maintenance orders may also be ordered for the duration of the divorce proceedings. If you are getting divorced and you are concerned about the financial implications of the split, you may want to consider seeking financial assistance in the form of spousal maintenance. Read on to learn about when and how spouses may receive maintenance in an Illinois divorce.

Reaching a Spousal Maintenance Agreement with Your Spouse

Some spouses reach an alimony agreement long before they file for divorce. If you and your spouse already agreed on a maintenance arrangement in a valid prenuptial agreement or separation agreement, the terms of this agreement will likely be upheld by the court. However, if you have not already made these arrangements, you may need to negotiate a maintenance agreement as part of your divorce settlement. Your divorce lawyer may be able to help you reach an arrangement that you can both agree on. Divorce mediation may be another avenue for negotiating a spousal maintenance agreement.

Petitioning the Court for a Spousal Maintenance Award

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement about maintenance terms, the court may step in and decide for you. Illinois courts do not award maintenance in every divorce case. Maintenance is awarded when spouses’ financial, employment, and life circumstances justify these payments. The court will consider the duration of your marriage, the standard of living experienced during the marriage, your employability, your spouse’s ability to pay maintenance, and several other factors. If maintenance is deemed appropriate, the court will use a statutory formula to determine the amount of maintenance that you will receive.

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\Arlington Heights divorce lawyerMany divorce settlements include terms for spousal support, where one former spouse provides financial support to the other until they can fully support themselves. Spousal support, also known as alimony or spousal maintenance, can be made in regular payments or a lump sum. The terms, either agreed to in mediation or ordered by a judge, are legally binding. There are a few ways that a court will enforce a failure to adhere to your alimony payment schedule. If your ex falls behind on spousal maintenance payments, contact a divorce attorney before acting.

Enforcing Court-Ordered Spousal Support

Before bringing your case to court, you should try to communicate with your ex-spouse to find out if there are any circumstances preventing him or her from making payments. Common reasons include the recent loss of a job, illness, and injury. If your former spouse is willing to cooperate, you can form an agreement until he or she is capable of catching up with the payments. For instance, you both could suspend alimony payments until the paying-spouse returns to work. You should have an attorney draft this agreement. Informal contracts can lead to misunderstandings and difficulties in court if you need to opt for that route.

If your ex-spouse refuses to make support payments or fails to adhere to any new agreement you made due to his or her income reduction, you can take the issue to court. Failure to follow a court order means the court will hold the offender in “contempt.” In this case, you would file a motion for enforcement or contempt of court. To ensure that you eventually receive your support payments, a judge may garnish your former spouse’s wages, bank accounts, or tax returns. You may also explore alternatives like increasing the duration of support or adding interest to future payments. Continuous non-compliance could result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Courts issue significant fines and jail time for these offenses.

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Arlington Heights family law attorneyAs you go through the divorce process, you and your spouse will have many issues to consider and address. For example, you must decide how you will divide your marital assets, make arrangements regarding your children, and think about how you will manage your post-divorce life. In many divorce cases, the issue of maintenance—also known as spousal support or alimony—can be challenging, as it is not easy to “put a price” on the end of your marriage.

You might be perfectly content to allow the court to make decisions about maintenance, but it is important to keep in mind that you have the right to develop an agreement with your spouse that meets both your needs while keeping the court out of the decision-making process.

Cooperate and Communicate

Frankly, divorce is never easy, but more and more couples today are approaching the process with a spirit of cooperation. It is not uncommon for both spouses to reach the mutual conclusion that they would be better off apart than they would be if they stayed married. The spouses still care about one another, however, and have no desire to cause one another unnecessary stress by dragging out the divorce process. With a similar attitude, you and your spouse could develop a spousal maintenance arrangement quickly and efficiently.

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