May 23, 2011

Protecting Your Lifestyle During and After Divorce

Divorce can be an emotionally stressful and challenging time. Unfortunately, the divorce process can be made more difficult when one spouse attempts to act punitively, and hurt their partner by engaging in tactics which involve manipulating one’s financial resources, and their spouse’s means of supporting themselves. While the goal of all divorce cases should be to try to reach an amicable resolution, minimizing the conflict, time, and money spent, a person’s ability to support themselves and their lifestyle should not be compromised.Maintenance, which was formerly known as alimony, is the payment of spousal support from one party to another during and after a divorce. Illinois law provides that a spouse is entitled to receive maintenance in an amount necessary to maintain the marital standard of living as long as the other party can maintain that lifestyle and still meet his or her own needs. Further, a spouse seeking maintenance is not required to sell assets in order to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.Many contested divorce cases involve the payor spouse attempting to minimize the amount of maintenance to be paid. The spouse seeking maintenance then must be able to prove their reasonable needs, historical expenses, and any anticipated or projected costs. To do this, it is important to maintain records to demonstrate and establish one’s historical lifestyle.Because Illinois law views marriage as a partnership, courts consider spouses as co-equals, recognizing that homemaker services are as significant as financial contributions. While the amount of maintenance paid may depend upon various factors, including, one’s income, earning capacity, and standard of living, the court looks to the same factors in assessing the length of the maintenance to be paid, including contributions to the career of the other spouse and time absent from the workplace due to children or domestic responsibilities.When making an assessment as to your entitlement to maintenance, it is important to consult with an experienced matrimonial attorney to obtain guidance on the point. The following is a list of information that will help you prepare for the divorce process:• Be prepared to discuss your expenses, lifestyle, health, contributions during the marriage, and any impediments to your future employment. Lifestyle factors include such things as money spent for clothing, club memberships, automobiles, jewelry, artwork, vacations, gifting, second homes and private school. • Gather tax returns, bank statements, cancelled checks, credit card statements, and any other financial records to demonstrate your spouse’s income. • Begin to prepare a preliminary budget to share with your lawyer. The more information you can provide to your lawyer, the better prepared he or she will be in trying to maintain your lifestyle.These are some preliminary steps you can take to help your own case, but only through meeting with an experienced matrimonial law attorney can you gain information needed to understand your realistic prospects at sustaining your needs and maintaining your lifestyle after the divorce.

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