The Illinois maintenance law went through a major overhaul between 2018 and 2019 in that the calculation for the amount of maintenance changed and the tax treatment of maintenance payments changed because of the new tax laws. Imagine a scenario where a judge enters a divorce judgment in 2018 that awards maintenance (alimony) to the wife, but the amount is not set at the time. The judgment just says that upon the occurrence of a specific event, the wife will be awarded guideline maintenance. The judgement does not specifically state whether the 2018 version or 2019 version of the law should be used to determine the “guideline” amount, however.
Fast forward in this scenario to March of 2019 when specific maintenance triggering event occurs. Using the 2018 version of the law, the wife would receive $400 each month for maintenance, however, using the 2019 version of the law, the wife would not be entitled to any maintenance at all. Which law should be used? Does it matter that the 2018 judgment says that the wife was in need of maintenance?
In a scenario such as this, which version of the statute should control? Maintenance laws do periodically change, most recently in 2015. So, this is not the first time courts have been asked to determine which version should control in a given situation. In determining what law to apply, Illinois case law says that “the court may consider the reason for the law, the problems sought to be remedied, the purposes to be achieved, and the consequences of construing the statute one way or another.” In re Jian L. Additionally, the court must presume the legislature “did not intend to create absurd, inconvenient, or unjust results” in the enactment of newly formed law.
In In re Marriage of Cole, the 5th District Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision to apply the 2014 maintenance statute rather than the 2015 maintenance statute after it found that the marriage, separation, and dissolution hearing all occurred in 2014, before the statute took effect in 2015. The court reasoned that the events and evidence that shaped the trial court’s opinion all occurred in 2014, despite the order being entered in 2015, after the effective date of the new statute. The court believed that the order that was eventually entered did not have any bearing on the facts of the case as they existed at the time that they were heard by the trial court. Thus, the court upheld the decision to apply the 2014 maintenance statute.
In In re Marriage of Carstens, the 2nd District Appellate Court distinguished its decision from Cole by looking at the date of filing of the appellant’s underlying Petition to Modify Maintenance. In Carstens, a judgment for dissolution of marriage awarding maintenance was entered in December 2004. In February 2016, the appellant filed his Petition to Modify Maintenance, after the new maintenance statute amendments took effect in January 1, 2016. In its assessment of the newly enacted amendments, the court looked specifically at the plain language of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act’s amended Section 801, which applies to all pre-judgment and post-judgment proceedings not just those that pertain to maintenance. Section 801 states that the amended provisions pertain to (a) proceedings commenced on or after the effective date of the Act, (b) proceedings commenced prior to the effective date of the act, but which a judgment has not been entered, and (c) proceedings commenced after the Acts effective date.
According to the court in Carstens, the appellant filed his petition to modify maintenance after the effective date of the Act, and due to the petition seeking a modification of the court’s prior order, an order entered prior to the effective date of the Act, the petition fell within Section 801(c). Thus, the new maintenance statute applied.
Finally, in In re Marriage of Kasprzyk, the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage was entered in November 2014 awarding maintenance to the wife. The wife filed her Petition to Extend Maintenance in October 2016. Subsequently, a hearing occurred, and an order was entered in 2017 reflecting the use of the new maintenance statute. The appellant appealed arguing that the trial court considered the wrong version of the statute in calculating its maintenance award and it should have instead applied the version of the statue applicable when the dissolution petition was filed in 2014.
Evaluating the opinions of both the Cole and Carstens courts in its ruling, the court in Kasprzyk followed the legal analysis of Carstens. The court ruled that the legislature plainly intended to include all petitions to modify a maintenance order, including petitions to review and petitions to terminate, to fall within Section 801(c)’s application.
If you are in need of any help or assistance regarding issues such as these, contact Kollias, P.C. for your free 30-minute consultation today.