Modifiable Maintenance

One of the most complex issues in a Chicago divorce is that of maintenance (“alimony”). How much maintenance or alimony is paid? Is it paid temporarily or permanently?

If you are divorcing in Illinois, imagine you agree to pay your former spouse a fixed amount of maintenance so long as he or she cannot come back in the future and try to get more maintenance. You would want to be sure that your Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) protected you from the possibility of your former spouse dragging you back to court in the future when you may be earning a higher income or he or she has suffered a financial setback. In order to properly protect yourself, you need to understand the different types of maintenance we have in Illinois.

There are several different kinds of maintenance in Illinois. One type of maintenance is reviewable maintenance. With reviewable maintenance, the party receiving the maintenance can ask the court in the future to extend the maintenance.  For example, the judgment may state that one party is to make monthly maintenance payments  to the other party for three years and at the end of the three years the receiving party can ask the court to extend the maintenance payments.  The court decides whether to extend maintenance and, if so, for how long.

Another type of maintenance is “maintenance in gross”. Maintenance in gross is a lump sum payment that is paid once or over a definite number of installments. Maintenance in gross is not modifiable if the circumstances of one or both of the parties changes. A recent Illinois appeals case addressed the issue of whether the maintenance provision in a MSA intended periodic maintenance or maintenance in gross. The MSA did not explicitly state that the maintenance was in gross and the provision was ambiguous. Years after the divorce, the recipient sought to increase the maintenance and the payor claimed the maintenance was in gross and non-modifiable. Ultimately, the appellate court held that the maintenance was not in gross because the MSA did not comply with the requirements necessary for such.

If maintenance in gross is the agreement reached in a dissolution case, the MSA needs to clearly state that the maintenance is in gross and non-modifiable and comply with the legal requirements.

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If you are looking for legal advice and representation with an Illinois divorce, schedule a consultation with experienced Chicago divorce attorney, Tanya Witt, at (312) 500-5400 or

Representing men and women in Chicago divorce and child custody cases.

This blog does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney regarding your specific case.