When Can I End Spousal Maintenance Early?
Many divorces leave people with a variety of financial obligations including dividing property, splitting retirement benefits, assigning life insurance proceeds, spousal maintenance, and child support. Maintenance, better known as alimony, is a relatively common financial responsibility, particularly for longer marriages or when there is a disparity between the two party’s incomes or earning potential. Unfortunately, individual’s situations change and it can become difficult or impossible to pay spousal support overtime. Instead of missing payments that add up to a large arrearage or continuously struggling to make ends meet, individuals can ask to reduce and sometimes to end this obligation.
A Substantial Change in Circumstances
Most individuals have spousal maintenance altered or ended because of a substantial change in circumstances, such as losing their job, a reduction of income, retirement, or the receiving party becoming financially independent. Similar to when the court originally set the amount and duration of the maintenance, the judge will again look at certain factors to determine if a modification or stopping the maintenance is appropriate, including:
- A change in either party’s employment status and whether the change was made in good faith,
- Any increase or decrease in a party’s income since the current order was entered,
- The receiving party’s efforts to become self-supporting and whether those efforts were reasonable and appropriate,
- Any impairment in either party’s present and future earning capacity,
- The tax consequences of the maintenance payments on both parties,
- The duration of maintenance already paid and remaining to be paid under the current order relative to the length of the marriage,
- The property, including retirement benefits, each party was awarded during the divorce,
- The property currently owned or acquired since the divorce, and
Any other factors the court believes to be just and equitable.
The Receiving Party’s Remarriage or Cohabitation
Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties, your maintenance obligation automatically ends when the receiving individual remarries or begins to cohabitate with a person he or she is in a romantic relationship with, in accordance with Section 510(c) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The date your obligation ends is the date the marriage is entered into or the date the court finds out the cohabitation began. You are entitled to be reimbursed any maintenance you paid after this date.
If your maintenance payment is being garnished from your wages and you discover your ex-spouse remarried, you may need to go to court to memorialize the termination before your employer will stop the withholding. Where your ex-spouse is cohabitating with another person, the court’s assistance may be necessary to determine if the cohabitation rises to the level that results in the termination of maintenance. Court action may also be necessary to get reimbursed for maintenance you paid during the marriage or cohabitation.
The law allows couples to come to their own agreements about maintenance as long as the agreement is not abundantly unfair to one person. Occasionally ex-spouses work together on this, but usually the party seeking to end a financial obligation must return to court to request a change.
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