What is a Significant Change of Circumstances in Setting Support Payments?

Full Question:

I live in Illinois. I've been married for almost 30 years. My salary was about 3 times hers (107k - 38k). We were going to split assets 50%-50% until her attorney told her she should either get maintenance for 5 years or split assets taking 60%-40%. I said maintenance since I have now been unemployed for 6 + months and likely to take a lower paying job. Also the 60% would cost me about $100,000. My wife also lost her job and working only part time making about $20,000. My wife said that her attorney indicated she could ask for money if I once again make significantly more than her. How is significant defined? If she does ask and get's it, does it end at the 5 year anniversary of divorce settlement date or when she requested it? Who determines the actual amount of the monthly maintenance? The actual divorce document reads 'The parties hereby agree to reserve the issue of maintenance to the Wife by the Husband. That said reservation of the issue of the payment of maintenance to the Wife by the Husband is reserved for a period of 5 years. I haven't signed the document yet.
06/30/2009   |   Category: Divorce ยป Modification   |   State: Illinois   |   #17260


A significant change of circumstances is often the basis for modifying a divorce order. The precise meaning of significant isn't defined by statute, but is a subjective determination made by the court, based on all the facts and circumstances in each case. Loss of employment is often found to be a significant change in circumstances.

The parties may agree to an amount and period for alimony, or it may be a matter to be determined by the court if the parties are unable to agree. Alimony is typically made payable until the payee dies, remarries, or cohabits with another in a conjugal way. Other time periods for paying alimony are possible, and it is either a matter of agreement by the parties, or may be a matter of determination for the court. There are no clearly defined dollar amounts or guidelines regarding alimony in Illinois which are similar to those for child support. Typically, payments are ordered to take effect after the divorce decree is finalized.

Please see the following IL statutes to determine applicability:

(750 ILCS 5/504) (from Ch. 40, par. 504)

Sec. 504. Maintenance.

(a) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation or declaration of invalidity of marriage, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a temporary or permanent maintenance award for either spouse in amounts and for periods of time as the court deems just, without regard to marital misconduct, in gross or for fixed or indefinite periods of time, and the maintenance may be paid from the income or property of the other spouse after consideration of all relevant factors, including:

(1) the income and property of each party, including
marital property apportioned and non-marital property assigned to the party seeking maintenance;

(2) the needs of each party;

(3) the present and future earning capacity of each

(4) any impairment of the present and future earning
capacity of the party seeking maintenance due to that party devoting time to domestic duties or having forgone or delayed education, training, employment, or career opportunities due to the marriage;

(5) the time necessary to enable the party seeking
maintenance to acquire appropriate education, training, and employment, and whether that party is able to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child making it appropriate that the custodian not seek employment;

(6) the standard of living established during the

(7) the duration of the marriage;

(8) the age and the physical and emotional condition
of both parties;

(9) the tax consequences of the property division
upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;

(10) contributions and services by the party seeking
maintenance to the education, training, career or career potential, or license of the other spouse;

(11) any valid agreement of the parties; and

(12) any other factor that the court expressly finds
to be just and equitable.

(b) (Blank).

(b-5) Any maintenance obligation including any unallocated maintenance and child support obligation, or any portion of any support obligation, that becomes due and remains unpaid shall accrue simple interest as set forth in Section 505 of this Act.

(b-7) Any new or existing maintenance order including any unallocated maintenance and child support order entered by the court under this Section shall be deemed to be a series of judgments against the person obligated to pay support thereunder. Each such judgment to be in the amount of each payment or installment of support and each such judgment to be deemed entered as of the date the corresponding payment or installment becomes due under the terms of the support order, except no judgment shall arise as to any installment coming due after the termination of maintenance as provided by Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act or the provisions of any order for maintenance. Each such judgment shall have the full force, effect and attributes of any other judgment of this State, including the ability to be enforced. A lien arises by operation of law against the real and personal property of the obligor for each installment of overdue support owed by the obligor.

(c) The court may grant and enforce the payment of maintenance during the pendency of an appeal as the court shall deem reasonable and proper.

(d) No maintenance shall accrue during the period in which a party is imprisoned for failure to comply with the court's order for the payment of such maintenance.

(e) When maintenance is to be paid through the clerk of the court in a county of 1,000,000 inhabitants or less, the order shall direct the obligor to pay to the clerk, in addition to the maintenance payments, all fees imposed by the county board under paragraph (3) of subsection (u) of Section 27.1 of the Clerks of Courts Act. Unless paid in cash or pursuant to an order for withholding, the payment of the fee shall be by a separate instrument from the support payment and shall be made to the order of the Clerk.

(Source: P.A. 94-89, eff. 1-1-06.)

(750 ILCS 5/510) (from Ch. 40, par. 510)

Sec. 510. Modification and termination of provisions for maintenance, support, educational expenses, and property disposition.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (f) of Section 502 and in subsection (b), clause (3) of Section 505.2, the provisions of any judgment respecting maintenance or support may be modified only as to installments accruing subsequent to due notice by the moving party of the filing of the motion for modification. An order for child support may be modified as follows:

(1) upon a showing of a substantial change in
circumstances; and

(2) without the necessity of showing a substantial
change in circumstances, as follows:

(A) upon a showing of an inconsistency of at
least 20%, but no less than $10 per month, between the amount of the existing order and the amount of child support that results from application of the guidelines specified in Section 505 of this Act unless the inconsistency is due to the fact that the amount of the existing order resulted from a deviation from the guideline amount and there has not been a change in the circumstances that resulted in that deviation; or

(B) Upon a showing of a need to provide for the
health care needs of the child under the order through health insurance or other means. In no event shall the eligibility for or receipt of medical assistance be considered to meet the need to provide for the child's health care needs.

The provisions of subparagraph (a)(2)(A) shall apply only in cases in which a party is receiving child support enforcement services from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services under Article X of the Illinois Public Aid Code, and only when at least 36 months have elapsed since the order for child support was entered or last modified.

(a-5) An order for maintenance may be modified or terminated only upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. In all such proceedings, as well as in proceedings in which maintenance is being reviewed, the court shall consider the applicable factors set forth in subsection (a) of Section 504 and the following factors:

(1) any change in the employment status of either
party and whether the change has been made in good faith;

(2) the efforts, if any, made by the party receiving
maintenance to become self-supporting, and the reasonableness of the efforts where they are appropriate;

(3) any impairment of the present and future earning
capacity of either party;

(4) the tax consequences of the maintenance payments
upon the respective economic circumstances of the parties;

(5) the duration of the maintenance payments
previously paid (and remaining to be paid) relative to the length of the marriage;

(6) the property, including retirement benefits,
awarded to each party under the judgment of dissolution of marriage, judgment of legal separation, or judgment of declaration of invalidity of marriage and the present status of the property;

(7) the increase or decrease in each party's income
since the prior judgment or order from which a review, modification, or termination is being sought;

(8) the property acquired and currently owned by
each party after the entry of the judgment of dissolution of marriage, judgment of legal separation, or judgment of declaration of invalidity of marriage; and

(9) any other factor that the court expressly finds
to be just and equitable.

(b) The provisions as to property disposition may not be revoked or modified, unless the court finds the existence of conditions that justify the reopening of a judgment under the laws of this State.

(c) Unless otherwise agreed by the parties in a written agreement set forth in the judgment or otherwise approved by the court, the obligation to pay future maintenance is terminated upon the death of either party, or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance, or if the party receiving maintenance cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis.

(d) Unless otherwise provided in this Act, or as agreed in writing or expressly provided in the judgment, provisions for the support of a child are terminated by emancipation of the child, or if the child has attained the age of 18 and is still attending high school, provisions for the support of the child are terminated upon the date that the child graduates from high school or the date the child attains the age of 19, whichever is earlier, but not by the death of a parent obligated to support or educate the child. An existing obligation to pay for support or educational expenses, or both, is not terminated by the death of a parent. When a parent obligated to pay support or educational expenses, or both, dies, the amount of support or educational expenses, or both, may be enforced, modified, revoked or commuted to a lump sum payment, as equity may require, and that determination may be provided for at the time of the dissolution of the marriage or thereafter.

(e) The right to petition for support or educational expenses, or both, under Sections 505 and 513 is not extinguished by the death of a parent. Upon a petition filed before or after a parent's death, the court may award sums of money out of the decedent's estate for the child's support or educational expenses, or both, as equity may require. The time within which a claim may be filed against the estate of a decedent under Sections 505 and 513 and subsection (d) and this subsection shall be governed by the provisions of the Probate Act of 1975, as a barrable, noncontingent claim.

(f) A petition to modify or terminate child support, custody, or visitation shall not delay any child support enforcement litigation or supplementary proceeding on behalf of the obligee, including, but not limited to, a petition for a rule to show cause, for non-wage garnishment, or for a restraining order.
(Source: P.A. 95-331, eff. 8-21-07.)

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