Negotiating Spousal Support During a Divorce

Negotiating Spousal Support During a Divorce

Are you interested in receiving spousal support after your divorce? Will you be required to pay support to your ex-spouse? If so, you can negotiate the amount and duration of maintenance (the legal name for alimony or spousal support in Illinois) with your spouse with the help of an experienced Chicago divorce attorney. Two of the most common arguments for alimony are that one spouse earns less than the other because he or she stayed home with the kids and a spouse has become accustomed to a certain lifestyle only maintainable with a higher income than he or she earns.

While you hear these reasons thrown about often, judges actually bear in mind thirteen factors to determine if alimony is appropriate. If you and your husband or wife are negotiating your divorce settlement instead of looking to a judge for a decision, then you too can use these factors to support your argument for spousal maintenance.

Proving Spousal Maintenance is Appropriate

The first step to gaining alimony in your divorce settlement is to successfully argue that it is needed and appropriate. If you have a pre-nuptial agreement that states you have a right to alimony, then your point is made for you. Your negotiations will skip ahead to the next step of determining an amount. However, without a contractual agreement regarding alimony, you may need to convince your spouse that support is necessary. Basic elements that can support this claim are:

  • The length of your marriage
  • The disparity in your incomes
  • The reasons for the income disparity

If you believe your spouse is disinclined to agree to spousal maintenance, speak with an experienced Chicago maintenance lawyer. I may be able to help you offer a more convincing argument.


Determining an Amount

Once your spouse has agreed to pay you alimony, the next steps are to consider the amount and duration of maintenance. If you and your spouse have a combined gross income of $250,000 or less, you can look to Illinois law for a base amount. However, when you and your spouse are privately negotiating this issue, you can come to any mutually agreeable amount.

Consider Duration

You and your spouse can agree on a fixed-term or permanent alimony. Through a fixed-term arrangement, support only lasts for a specific period of time, usually a number of years. This is in contrast to an arrangement that continues indefinitely until your remarriage, cohabitation with another person in a marriage like setting, or death. You can also contract as to when permanent alimony ends instead of following Illinois law. For instance, maintenance automatically ends when the paying or receiving spouse passes away. However, you and your spouse can agree that you will to continue to receive alimony through the estate or a trust after his or her passing.

While most spousal support comes in monthly increments for a number of years or until a major change like death or remarriage, this structure is not required. Your alimony can include an upfront sum or be paid on an annual basis. It is really up to you and your husband or wife to determine what is most appropriate for your situation.

How it May be Modified

 If you are negotiating alimony yourself, you must consider that circumstances change over time. There may be situations in which you need a higher amount or your ex wants to reduce alimony. Your agreement may state how and when future modifications can be made.

Factors You May Not Have Considered

Certain circumstances often lead to arguments over alimony and requests for modifications or early termination. You and your spouse can save yourselves from future headaches by considering what happens to the support in the event of:

  • Your completing additional education or job training
  • A significant increase in your income
  • A significant decrease in the paying spouse’s income
  • Your remarriage
  • Your cohabitation, including what it means to cohabitate
  • Your or your ex-spouse’s retirement
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About author

Michael Craven
Michael Craven 28 posts

Michael C. Craven is a well-known divorce attorney in Chicago, CPA and a partner of the law firm, Harrison & Held, LLP, located in the Chicago area. He is highly respected among other divorce attorneys, judges and his clients. He also holds a Master of Tax Law Degree (LLM). For more information about his services, contact Michael at or at Divorce Lawyers Chicago.

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