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. The most typical maintenance is periodic maintenance which is defined by its indefiniteness. Periodic maintenance may be modified or terminated if the situation of the parties changes in the future.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 whetherthe maintenance provision in aMSA 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 maintenanceis in gross and non-modifiable and comply with the legal requirements.

If you have questions aboutIllinois divorce law, contact Chicago divorce lawyer Tanya Witt of The Witt Law Firm, P.C. at (312) 948-9884 or email The above blog post does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney.