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How does standard of living factor into alimony?

Photo of Karen Lavin


When Illinoisans get divorced, the process is more than just physically separating. It is a separation of two lives previously wound into one. The unwinding of that bond is seldom easy or simple. It involves resolving a gamut of issues, including whether one spouse should continue to financially support the other and, if so, how much support that spouse should provide. This concept is known as alimony or spousal support.

Deciding whether one spouse should continue to support the other spouse past the end of the marriage is not determined in a vacuum. Nor is the extent to which the one spouse supports the other. Each decision is reached using a variety of legally approved factors.

One consideration is how much each spouses' standard of living dropped. For example, according to a study by Rutgers University, on average a woman's standard of living drops by nearly 30 percent. That is a steep plummet. And precisely the sort of result the family-law system tries to ameliorate.

To soften a spouse's post-divorce landing, a court will look at whether a spouse forewent school, gave up or trimmed back on a career and so on in service to the marriage. These sacrifices, the legal system has decided, should be recognized not punished following a divorce. The court will then compare these sacrifices, among other factors, to the standard of living during the marriage and the spouse's likely standard of living after the divorce to arrive at an alimony award.

To learn more about how a court decides alimony, and ways to strengthen their case, Illinoisans may benefit from discussing their situation with an experienced family-law attorney.

Source: TheIntell, "Divorce and Your Standard of Living," Loretta Hutchinson, May 13, 2014

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