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What factors guide Illinois courts when awarding alimony?

When an Illinois resident decides to seek a divorce, one of the first questions to be asked is will the court require one spouse to pay alimony. Alimony is more commonly referred to as spousal support or maintenance, but the factors that govern its award and the amount of support are spelled out in the state's statutes.

Illinois courts have broad discretion when determining whether an award of spousal maintenance is appropriate. State law provides twelve factors to be considered and a thirteenth catch-all category. The first factor is the income and property of each party. The court must also consider the financial needs of each party and their present and future earning capacity. In making this judgment, the court must also consider whether either party's earning capacity has been impaired by decisions made on account of the marriage.

Courts also consider the length of the marriage and the standard of living the parties established during the marriage. A court will look at the age, health, station, occupation and vocational skills of each party. Some people have both public and private sources of income that will be considered. The court will consider whether one spouse made significant contributions to the education, training, or career potential of the other spouse.

The court will also consider whether the parties executed a valid premarital agreement or any other binding agreement regarding the payment of support. The catch-all provision is any other factor that the court finds just and equitable. This factor obviously gives the court wide latitude in evaluating the merits of any petition for spousal support.

The statute governing the award of spousal maintenance specifies the amount of support in certain conditions, but the court can modify the guideline amounts based upon consideration of any of the factors listed above.

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