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Are You Required to Separate Before Divorcing in Illinois?Once you and your spouse have decided that you want to divorce, you likely want to start the process as soon as you are ready. Creating a divorce agreement can take months while you gather information, negotiate the terms, and wait for your court date. You may also wonder whether Illinois requires you to live separately before you can file for divorce. If you ask this question to someone who got divorced five or more years ago, they may tell you that they had to live separately for months or years before they could divorce. However, Illinois divorce law no longer requires spouses to live separately, though proving that you have already been separated can help in some cases.

How Separation Helps

Illinois practices no-fault divorce, meaning that spouses do not cite grounds such as infidelity for divorcing. Spouses will often, but not always, agree on filing for divorce. When a spouse disputes a divorce, the divorce filer only must prove that there are irreconcilable differences. Prior to 2016, Illinois required spouses who both agreed to divorce to live separately for six months before they could file. If they disagreed on getting a divorce, the separation requirement to prove irreconcilable differences was two years. However, Illinois changed its divorce law in 2016:

  • Spouses who both agree to divorce can file immediately.
  • If the spouses disagree, showing that they have lived separately for at least six months will create a presumption of irreconcilable differences.

Even without living separately, citing irreconcilable differences is fairly easy to prove to the court. Even if spouses disagree on whether their marriage can be salvaged, the court may rule that the disagreement is proof of irreconcilable differences.

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Illinois Court Questions Law Requiring Divorced Parents to Pay for CollegeThe Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a portion of the state’s divorce law that can order both parents to help pay for a child’s college education, in response to a circuit court judge who ruled that it was unconstitutional. The circuit court judge had decided that forcing a divorced parent to contribute to college expenses is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which promises equal protection under state laws. Rather than argue the merit of the claim, the supreme court said that the circuit court judge lacked the authority to strike down the law because the supreme court had previously ruled that the law was constitutional. Only the supreme court has the authority to overturn that ruling, it said.

College Expenses

The law in question is Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which states that courts may order divorced parents to use their assets and incomes to pay for a child’s post-high school education. Expenses may include:

  • Tuition
  • Housing
  • Books and supplies
  • Reasonable living expenses
  • Medical expenses

Divorced parents can share these expenses by allocating assets in their divorce agreement towards paying for college or continuing child support payments until the child graduates with a bachelor’s degree or turns 23, whichever happens first. The age deadline can be extended to 25 if good cause is shown. Continued child support payments may be dependent upon the child’s academic performance.

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Understanding Illinois’ Shared Parenting Child Support FormulaIllinois calculates the child support payments that one parent owes the other by using an income shares table. To determine your child support payments, you would start by adding up the combined net incomes of yourself and your co-parent. Each row in the income shares table has an income range. When you find the row where your combined incomes fall, you will go across to the column for the number of children you share. The number you see is the base level of the combined child support obligation that you must pay together each month.

Your proportionate incomes will determine the share of the child support obligation that each of you are responsible for. If your income is 60 percent of your combined incomes, then you are responsible for 60 percent of the child support obligation. The nonresidential parent is typically the one who pays child support to the residential parent, even if they have a lower income. The formula for determining the payment amount changes when parents have a shared parenting arrangement.

Shared Parenting Formula

Illinois defines shared parenting as a parenting schedule in which each parent has the children overnight at least 146 times per year, which would be a 60-40 division of parenting time. The formula for calculating child support in a shared parenting arrangement is more complicated than the basic formula:

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Illinois Adjusts Spousal Maintenance Law Ahead of Tax ChangesIllinois recently passed a law that changes the formula and court instructions for calculating spousal maintenance as part of a divorce. The law goes into effect at the start of 2019, which is the same time that a federal tax law eliminating the alimony deduction goes into effect. Illinois is adjusting its spousal maintenance law because the tax law will put a greater burden on people paying maintenance. Since the new tax law was announced, lawyers have warned divorcees that it may become more difficult to reach a spousal maintenance agreement if the payor cannot use the alimony deduction. Illinois’ new law will try to make court decisions on spousal maintenance more equitable for both spouses.

Alimony Deduction

Any spousal maintenance agreements approved before the end of 2018 are still eligible for the alimony tax deduction, and payors under existing maintenance agreements can continue claiming the deduction until a change of circumstances requires them to modify the agreement. With the alimony deduction, payors can deduct the full value of their annual maintenance payments from their federal income taxes. Payees must report the maintenance that they receive as taxable income. When the deduction is eliminated, the payor will save less on his or her taxes, and the payee will not pay taxes on his or her maintenance.

Illinois’ Response

Divorcees may be less likely to reach a spousal maintenance agreement on their own because the alimony deduction was an incentive for the payor to agree to larger maintenance payments. Illinois’ new maintenance law tells the courts to consider the tax consequences for each party when deciding on spousal maintenance. It also changes the spousal maintenance formula so that the courts:

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