Do I Have to Pay Alimony if Collecting Unemployment in Illinois?


Payment of alimony, known as "spousal maintenance" in Illinois, depends on a number of factors outlined by state law. The factors focus on the financial need of the party requesting spousal support as well as the other party's ability to pay. If the party providing spousal support becomes unemployed and collects unemployment benefits, whether alimony will continue or change depends on the Illinois court's application of the relevant state laws.

Alimony Rights in Illinois

Upon dissolution of marriage in Illinois, either spouse may request a court order for spousal maintenance. Illinois law allows for "rehabilitative alimony" that supports a spouse while she seeks to improve her financial situation and gain the ability to support herself after divorce. The state rarely allows "permanent alimony" without an end date or specified circumstances to terminate the order. The court has the discretion to grant or deny the alimony request. If a spouse believes that he can't afford to pay alimony due to unemployment, he may ask the court to deny the request for spousal support.

Calculation of Alimony Award

Even if a spouse opposes alimony due to unemployment, the court overseeing the request must consider the 12 factors listed in section 504 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes through the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. The section doesn't specifically preclude spousal maintenance due to the unemployment of the spouse who pays alimony. The section does, however, allow the court to consider each spouse's income, current earning capacity and future earning capacity. A spouse might be able to argue that unemployment benefits don't provide enough income to allow for payment of alimony. In addition, a spouse might ask the court to limit alimony, due to the uncertainty of unemployment. The spouse facing an alimony order may need to consult with an Illinois divorce lawyer for personalized advice regarding the rights and obligations under state law.

Unemployment Benefits in Illinois

Illinois law allows for unemployment benefits when a worker loses his job after layoffs. An individual may also be able to collect unemployment benefits if he shows that he voluntarily quit his job due to good cause. Unemployment benefits do not continue indefinitely, nor do they always compensate the individual at the same rate earned through employment. Accordingly, collection of unemployment benefits may affect the individual's income or earning capacity as considered during calculation of alimony.

Modification Due to Unemployment

If an ex-spouse currently paying spousal maintenance becomes unemployed, Illinois law permits the individual to request a modification of the alimony order already in effect. An Illinois court might approve a modification if unemployment affects the individual's ability to pay alimony. The individual requesting a reduction in alimony must generally prove a significant change in personal circumstances — job loss or income reduction upon collection of unemployment benefits may qualify as a change that justifies modification of the court order for spousal support. The ex-spouse seeking a modification should discuss the situation with an Illinois lawyer or request information from the self-help center at the Illinois circuit court that previously issued the current order for alimony.

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