Though permanent spousal maintenance is rare in Chicago-area divorces, it does happen. Spousal maintenance, commonly known as alimony, is meant to provide financial support to one spouse. The purpose is to give the spouse time to develop the job skills necessary to be financially independent or maintain the spouse’s lifestyle during the marriage but cannot afford to keep up on their own.
Most of the time, spousal maintenance is temporary. The spouses either agree to alimony for a set number of years, or the judge presiding over the divorce awards maintenance with a certain end date. But indefinite alimony is allowed in Illinois. When permanent spousal support is part of a divorce order, it is usually because one of the exes gave up working to support the other ex’s career. They agreed to be the primary homemaker and child-rearer to allow their spouse to focus on achieving their work goals. Now, after many years of depending on their spouse for income, they have few, if any, job skills.
Often, spousal maintenance is awarded when the divorcing parties are older. For the working ex, retirement may be around the corner. But once they retire, they may no longer be able to afford spousal support.
Does alimony end at retirement?
“Permanent” spousal support does not necessarily last the rest of the paying or recipient spouse’s lives. Death of either ex is one of the three reasons alimony is automatically terminated in Illinois. The other reasons are when the recipient ex remarries or is living with someone in a romantic relationship. Proof of remarriage or cohabitation will cause the Family Court to terminate alimony.
In other cases, judges will consider modifying or terminating the support order if one of the exes can show there has been a significant change in circumstances, generally income-related. Retirement would certainly be a significant change in financial circumstances for most people. But if the recipient ex does not agree to stop alimony, the parties may have to go to trial to resolve the dispute. Each ex needs strong advocacy from an experienced family law attorney on their side.