If you have obtained a divorce in Illinois, you may be paying--or receiving--spousal support to your ex-spouse pursuant to your divorce decree. While this decree is binding and enforceable, it is not necessarily concrete. In certain circumstances, awards of spousal support can be modified. If you are subject to a divorce decree awarding spousal support to one party and need to change the amount of support, Dolci & Weiland's Illinois family law attorneys are here to help.
Substantial Change in Circumstances
Post-decree modification of spousal support is governed by the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. When it comes to changing the amount of spousal support or maintenance that is received or owed, the key requirement for a modification is that one party experience a "substantial change in circumstances"--in other words, a factor of a person's life must be altered to such an extent that it is unfair for one party to receive or pay the current amount of spousal support which is set out in the parties' divorce decree.
Determining what constitutes a substantial change in circumstances must be conducted on a case-by-case basis, as changes which would be inconsequential to a party might be substantial to another party. In determining whether spousal support should be modified after a divorce decree has been ordered, a court must review the following factors:
- Change in the employment status of either party, and whether the change has been made in good faith;
- The efforts being made by the party receiving maintenance to become self-supporting and the reasonableness of the efforts;
- Any impairment of the present and future earning capacity of either party;
- Tax consequences of the maintenance payment on the parties;
- Duration of maintenance payments previously paid compared to the length of the marriage;
- The duration of the maintenance payments that still remain to be paid;
- Property awarded to each party in the divorce, including retirement benefits;
- Increase or decrease in each party's income since the divorce decree was entered;
- Property acquired and owned by each party after the divorce; and
- Any other factor that the court expressly finds to be just and equitable.
Potential Reasons for Support Modification
While changing the award of spousal support must be determined based on the individual circumstances of each case, certain circumstances trigger a modification of support more than others.
Change in Financial Circumstances for Either Party
One of the most common substantial changes in circumstances is a change in either party's financial circumstances. If a party receiving support gets a promotion and makes a significantly higher income than he or she was making before, the party who is responsible for paying support may be able to modify the divorce decree to reflect a lower support obligation.
Similarly, if a party who is subject to paying spousal support loses his or her job and is unable to afford to pay the current amount of spousal support, he or she can petition the court to change the amount of the support obligation.
Change in Health of a Party
Health issues can take a serious toll on a person's financial stability. If one of the parties subject to a divorce decree is severely injured or suffers a life-altering medical condition such as cancer, he or she may incur an enormous amount of medical bills to treat or manage the illness or injury. This change in health status can constitute a substantial change in circumstances which would allow a party to petition for a change in the award of spousal support.
Marriage of the Receiving Spouse
Marriage can have a significant impact on a party's ability to receive spousal support--if a party who is receiving spousal support remarries, the paying party's obligation to provide support typically ends. This termination also applies to a person who lives with a new partner for a continuous period of time. If you are obligated to pay support and believe that your ex-spouse is cohabitating with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you may have grounds to terminate this support.
How to Obtain a Post-Decree Modification
If you are attempting to change the amount of spousal support which you are paying or receiving, it's important to seek legal assistance from an Illinois attorney who has experience representing clients facing domestic problems. Obtaining a modification can be a tricky process, and requires a number of procedures and court rules that must be followed down to the letter in order to have a chance of a successful modification. Several steps must be taken in order to obtain a modification.
The first step that your attorney will take is filing a petition for modification of support. This petition must be filed in the judicial circuit in which the divorce decree was last entered into or modified. If neither party lives in the county where the judgment was entered, a court has the right to transfer the proceeding to the county where either party resides.
Following a petition for modification, parties who do not agree to support modification may pursue mediation to attempt to resolve the issue on their own before a judge becomes involved. Oftentimes, parties are able to resolve their differences in opinion through mediation. If parties are not able to resolve the issue, the case will proceed to trial, and a judge will determine whether a modification of spousal support will be awarded.
Need a Modification? We Can Help
If you are receiving or paying spousal support in the state of Illinois following your divorce and need assistance changing the amount of support, the team of family law attorneys at Dolci & Weiland are standing by to help. Our attorneys are proud to have built a reputation for providing quality representation for our clients and are dedicated to helping clients who have experienced a change in circumstances necessitating a support modification.
To learn more about modification of spousal support, or to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team, fill out an online contact form or call the office closest to you today--for our DuPage location, contact (630) 261-9098, or for our Chicago office, call (312) 238-9007.