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What does ‘earning capacity’ mean in terms of spousal support disputes in Illinois?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Alimony |

When a couple decides to divorce in Illinois, one of the key issues that may arise is spousal support, also known as alimony. Spousal support is a payment made by one ex-spouse to the other to help maintain their standard of living after the divorce.

In determining the amount and duration of spousal support, Illinois courts consider several factors, including the concept of earning capacity.

What is earning capacity?

Earning capacity refers to an individual’s ability to earn income based on their education, skills, experience and job market conditions. It is not necessarily the same as their current income, but rather an assessment of their potential to earn money in the future.

In spousal support disputes, earning capacity factors in when one spouse has the potential to earn more than they currently do. For example, if a spouse has a college degree but has been out of the workforce for several years to raise children, their earning capacity is often higher than their current income.

How does the court determine earning capacity?

To determine a spouse’s earning capacity, the court will consider several factors, including:

  • Education and training
  • Work history and experience
  • Job skills and abilities
  • Age and health
  • Current job market conditions

The court may also consider the time and expense required for a spouse to acquire the education or training necessary to increase their earning capacity.

How does earning capacity affect spousal support?

If the court determines that a spouse has a higher earning capacity than their current income, it may impact the amount and duration of spousal support awarded. The court may impute income to the spouse based on their earning capacity, meaning they will calculate support as if the spouse were earning at their full potential. However, the court will also consider the other spouse’s ability to pay support and the standard of living established during the marriage.

By considering earning capacity, the court aims to ensure that spousal support awards are fair and equitable for both parties involved in the divorce. Consider your current earning potential compared to the role you have to determine if earning capacity might factor into your case.