How should spousal maintenance be determined?

by | Jun 18, 2020 | divorce


A somewhat older but nevertheless relevant article from the American Bar Association focuses on a topic that has constantly been debated among family law attorneys and divorcees. That topic is spousal maintenance or spousal support in Illinois, previously referred to as alimony.

The ABA article asks the important question, is maintenance something that should continue to be awarded in select divorce cases? And if so, pursuant to what guidelines?

When should maintenance be paid?

The article highlights one real-world case that provides a valid argument for an ex-spouse’s right to maintenance payments. In the example case, a wife with a Harvard business degree shelved her promising career to help her spouse become a doctor. Ultimately, the marriage failed. When it did, the income disparity between the couple stood at 20:1 in favor of her ex-husband.

There is understandably little debate surrounding the inequity of that situation if left alone by the court. The debate instead focuses on the factors that might need to be applied in order to determine the appropriate amount and duration of alimony.

Can updated legislation solve the spousal maintenance debate?

Many states offer different takes on the topic, making it difficult to draw one unifying set of standards or principles. Without universal guidelines, maintenance has been—and continues to be—a hot-button issue in government and the legal community.

Much of the debate revolves around the lack of broad-based and uniform standards, as well as the means used in issuing a judicial ruling. Do judges have too much discretion? Too little? Can one national standard that would enhance clarity and certainty in divorce outcomes ever be put into law? And if so, would that actually work to promote more fair outcomes or undermine them?

Maintenance continues to be a complex and evolving topic and an area where input from proven family law legal counsel can make a real difference for those going through divorce. Questions or concerns regarding spousal maintenance should be directed to an experienced divorce attorney.