If you are receiving payments of alimony—also known as maintenance or spousal support—you have probably come to rely on those payments to improve your quality of life. Assuming the maintenance was ordered by the court and not the result of an agreement between you and your spouse, the existing order also means that the court determined that the support was appropriate to help offset the financial impact of your divorce. In most cases, maintenance orders are intended to last for a predetermined amount of time, but there are some events that could cause your order to be terminated ahead of schedule.
Statutory Duration Considerations
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides a guideline for determining the length of a spousal maintenance order that should be used by the court in most cases. If the couple’s combined income is less than $250,000 per year and neither party is subject to any other maintenance or child support orders from previous relationships, the court is expected to use the formula provided in the law.
To establish how long a maintenance order is expected to last, the court will take the length of the marriage and multiply it by a percentage factor contained in the statute. Longer marriages result in relatively longer orders for maintenance. For example, following a marriage lasting at least five years but less than 10 years, the court will multiply the number of years by 0.4, or 40 percent. The longest marriages—those of 20 years or more—often result in permanent or lifetime orders for support.
According to the law, there are several other situations in which your order for maintenance could be terminated. Obviously, the death of either spouse would end such an obligation. You would also forfeit your claim to alimony if you were to get remarried. This is because spousal support in intended to help you with your own household finances and to help you achieve a standard of living similar to that in your marriage. Your previous spouse is under no obligation to continue supporting you once you marry someone else.
Your support order could also be terminated if you move in with a new romantic partner, even if you do not get married. This does not apply to a standard roommate situation. If the court finds that you and your new partner are living together on a “resident, continuing conjugal basis,” your spouse will no longer be required to pay maintenance.
While the word “conjugal” suggests a sexual relationship, sex is not necessarily an indicator in either direction. Case law in Illinois has established that a sexual relationship alone does not necessarily meet the requirements of a “resident, continuing conjugal” cohabitation arrangement. The courts have also found such an arrangement to exist despite the lack of a sexual relationship. As far as the law is concerned, your support order may be terminated if you are living with another party in a relationship that is a de facto marriage, which includes combined incomes, establishing a household together, and shared leisure time.
Get the Answers You Need
Before you inadvertently forfeit your rights to continued alimony payments by moving in with a new partner, speak with an experienced Wheaton family law attorney. We will help you understand the possible implications of your decision and will work with you in protecting your rights. Call 630-904-3033 for a confidential consultation at Abear Law Offices today.