Paula Cole's Cowboy and Alimony Laws in Illinois - The Chicago Family Law Blog

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Paula Cole's Cowboy and Alimony Laws in Illinois

Where is my John Wayne?
Where is my prairie song?
Where is my happy ending?
Where have all the cowboys gone?

Paula Cole's eternally relevant tune, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" is more than a morose song of sorrow about the pitfalls of country life. It is a sociological portrait of a typical country housewife. With the ever-climbing divorce rate slowed only by the destitute state of the economy, it is more important than ever to be aware of the rights of the child-rearing homemaker.

I will do laundry if you pay all the bills

A recently-divorced homemaker faces a common conundrum: what to do about money? Child support is nearly guaranteed and set as a percentage of the ex-spouse's income. Conversely, spousal maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is completely up to the judge's discretion.

I will raise the children if you pay all the bills

Because judges also listen to Paula Cole, they understand the predicament of the woman who passes up a career to raise the children. The three major factors typically considered are the housewife's work experience and abilities, the length of the marriage, and the presence of children. Other factors considered are the former couple's standard of living, the ex-spouse's income, and the property of each party.

I am wearing my new dress tonight
But you don't, but you don't even notice me

One factor that is not considered is fault. Even if the husband's eyes (or hands) have strayed towards another, infidelity is not a factor. Illinois is a no-fault state, so the cause of the divorce will likely have no impact on the proceedings.

Where have all the cowboys gone?

Spousal maintenance in Illinois is typically rehabilitative, meaning it is only provided for a limited time. The goal is to get the non-working spouse in a self-sufficient position. For example, a judge might continue alimony while the Colesian housewife is pursuing a degree, but will terminate it after a reasonable time. Permanent alimony is only available in the rarest of circumstances, such as when a spouse is disabled.

Maintenance can also be terminated if she finds her John Wayne, as remarriage alleviates the former spouse from their financial obligation.

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