There are two different kinds of support. Maintenance, which we used to call alimony, is support for the ex-spouse. The other type of support is child support which, of course, covers the children. Under the right circumstances, each type of support can be changed after the dissolution judgment has been finalized.
One note of caution, however: if you gave up the right to change maintenance in your dissolution judgment, then no change is possible. This does not apply to child support, as the right to change child support can never be given up.
In Illinois, your maintenance can be changed if you can show “a substantial change in circumstances.” Generally, this will involve a change in your financial condition or a change in your ex-husband’s financial condition. You may have less money available — because your expenses have increased or because your income has decreased — or he may have more money available because his income has increased or his expenses have decreased. If you can show that the new financial situation is more than a minor change, then you have satisfied the test and a modification of your support is likely.
The amount of child support can also be modified if you can show a substantial change in circumstances. A change in your financial situation or your ex-husband’s financial situation as explained above will be sufficient. Frequently, child support will be changed when the children’s needs become greater as they grow older or the ex-husband’s income increases so that he has more money available for payment of support.
In order to have a change in either maintenance or child support, you must file a petition with the court. The new level of maintenance or child support cannot start any earlier than the filing of the petition.
Maintenance and child support can be increased using the steps that I have just explained. But this is not a one-way street. Your ex-spouse can use the same steps to decrease maintenance or child support in circumstances where his financial situation has changed for the worse. For example, a cut in his salary or the loss of his job would be sufficient.
Jay A. Frank is a senior divorce practitioner with Aronberg Goldgehn in Chicago. He has been selected as one of the top family-law attorneys in Illinois. With more than 35 years of experience, he focuses his practice on all aspects of Illinois family law.