Spousal Maintenance Attorneys
Since Wisconsin law does not establish strict requirements for spousal maintenance, maintenance (also referred to as “alimony”) is often one of the most heavily negotiated aspects of a Wisconsin divorce.
When spouses divorce in Wisconsin, one of the issues that must be resolved is the issue of which spouse (if either) will be required to pay spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is not always warranted, but when it is, it is often one of the most heavily negotiated (or heavily disputed) issues involved in the divorce. This is because, unlike property division and child support, there are no strict guidelines for determining spousal maintenance under Wisconsin law.
This is not to say that issues like property division and child support are straightforward. Rather, spouses must also carefully consider how any award of maintenance will factor into the overall outcome of their divorce. At Crooks Law, our divorce attorneys are experienced in helping divorcing spouses seek (or avoid) inclusion of a maintenance award in their divorce.
Factors for Calculating Maintenance in Wisconsin
While there are no strict guidelines for calculating spousal maintenance, the Wisconsin divorce statute does include a list of factors that are appropriate for consideration when crafting a maintenance award. Since these are the factors that a judge would use to evaluate a request for maintenance, these are also the factors that spouses should generally consider when negotiating maintenance as part of an out-of-court divorce settlement.
The spousal maintenance factors in Wisconsin are:
- The length of the marriage;
- The age, physical health, and emotional health of each spouse;
- The division of the spouses’ marital estate;
- Each spouse’s education level at the time of marriage and at the time of filing for divorce;
- The earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance – which considers education, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, and child custody obligations;
- The feasibility of the spouse seeking maintenance to become self-supporting at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
- The tax consequences to each party if maintenance is awarded;
- The relevant terms of any prenuptial agreement between the parties;
- Each spouse’s contributions to the other’s education, training, or increased earning power; and,
- Other factors that are relevant based on the circumstances involved.
In general, a maintenance award should be focused on ensuring that both spouses can maintain the standard of living that they enjoyed during the marriage, particularly if they both contributed equally (though not necessarily financially) to their marital partnership.
Maintenance During the Divorce
While maintenance payments generally start when a divorce becomes final, in some cases, spouses who need support can obtain maintenance payments while their divorce is pending as well. If you need this temporary maintenance, or if your spouse is requesting temporary maintenance, our attorneys can help you establish an appropriate award.
Duration of Spousal Maintenance
Like other aspects of spousal maintenance, the duration of a maintenance award is subject to significant flexibility as well. While Wisconsin law provides that maintenance “terminates upon the death of the payee or the payer, whichever occurs first,” subject to this limitation, the parties (or the court) can prescribe any duration for a maintenance award.
Keep in mind, however, that the maintenance award should be geared toward satisfying the purpose of allowing both spouses to maintain their marital standard of living. While in some cases this may warrant an award of indefinite maintenance, more often a maintenance award will have a set end date by which the recipient is expected to become self-supporting. The recipient’s remarriage or cohabitation with a new partner will generally result in termination of maintenance as well.
Modifying and Enforcing Maintenance After a Divorce
An important issue when establishing any maintenance award is whether the award is subject to modification. Not all maintenance awards can be modified. Divorcing spouses can agree to non-modifiable maintenance, and the Wisconsin courts will generally honor such agreements.
Even if a maintenance award can be modified, the courts will only grant a modification upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. Learn more about seeking modification of maintenance and what can happen if you or your former spouse fails to satisfy a maintenance award.
Speak with a Divorce Attorney at Crooks Law
The family law attorneys at Crooks Law have decades of experience representing individuals in Wisconsin divorces. If you have questions about spousal maintenance or would like to speak with an attorney generally about your divorce, call (715) 842-2291 or contact us online today for a confidential consultation.
Kevin P. Crooks
Kristen E. Lonergan