by Wes Cowell, updated 5 September 2015
Maintenance may be terminated ONLY by a court order. Out-of-court agreements and understandings are not enough. Only a court order will protect the obligor from continuing liability.
Most maintenance awards are "reviewable." In such cases, maintenance is termianted as part of the review process. Typically, in a (1st, 2d, 3d, whatever) review, the court will fix a date on which maintenance will terminate. If the order does not contain a termination date, then the matineance does not terminate.
Some cases include a termination date right from the date of the divorce. Unless the order is made non-modifiable, that termination date may be advanced, extended, or eliminated. If the termination date is not modified, however, maintance automatically ends on the termination date -- there is no need to return to court.
Remarriage -- Ceremony Trumps Status: What hapens when a maintenance recipient remarries but then annuls the second marriage? Maintenance terminates, that's what. In In re: Marriage of Kolb, 99 Ill.App.3d 895, 55 Ill.Dec. 128, 425 N.E.2d 1301 (1st Dist., 1981) the former wife remarried, but she and her ne husband got in a huge fight at the reception and he stormed out! The marriage was annulled a few months later. Those few moments of marital bliss between the ceremony and the reception, however, were enough to end her maintenance payments. "[T]he term 'remarriage' is intended to refer to a ceremonial marriage rather than a marital status. . . . [This definition] offers a predictable and consistent interpretation of the term 'remarriage'." Kolb, 99 Ill.App.3d 895, 902, 55 Ill.Dec. 128, 425 N.E.2d 1301.
Kolb, however, was decided entirely on the language of the Marital Settlement Agreement. In In re: Marriage of Harris, 203 Ill. App. 3d 241, 560 N.E.2d 1138, 148 Ill.Dec. 541 (1 Dist., 1990) (1st Dist., 1990), the First District Appellate Court said that wasn't a problem. In Harris, the former wife remarried and almost immediately annulled her second marriage. The maintenance payments must continue, she argued, thanks to the annulment of the second marriage and thanks to the fact that the MSA didn't have a "remarriage-terminates-maintenance" clause. Nope, said that appellate court. Once she said "I do," the second time, that ended her maintnenace . . . for good; no do-overs.