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How Will My Spouse’s Early Retirement Impact My Divorce?

How Will My Spouse’s Early Retirement Impact My Divorce?

If you and your ex are getting divorced, and your ex retired early, you may be wondering: How will my spouse's early retirement impact my divorce? Multiple issues can be raised regarding early retirement and divorce, and it’s important to understand the possible implications.

Retirement and Divorce  

During marriage, most couples make decisions expecting that they will share their home and income(s) during retirement. In some marriages, a partner may opt to retire early rather than continue in their career. If the couple later decides to divorce, the court will consider the retired partner’s status when dividing their shared assets and resources.

Community Property and Retirement

Wisconsin is a community property state meaning that, outside of certain limited exceptions, what spouses earn and acquire during a marriage belongs equally to both partners. Generally, retirement earned during marriage is considered community property. Therefore, if you and your former spouse both worked and contributed to retirement during your marriage, you will be entitled to half of the other's retirement.

Will I Have to Pay Alimony?

A Wisconsin divorce court may order that one party pay the other maintenance (alimony). Under the law, the court may grant an order requiring maintenance payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time after considering all of the following:

  1. How long the couple was married.
  2. Each person’s age and physical and emotional health.
  3. The division of the property
  4. The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and when the divorce started.
  5. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
  6. The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  7. The tax consequences to each party.
  8. Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning financial or service contributions made with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, if the repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties.
  9. The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other.
  10. Any other factors the court deems to be relevant.

If you are still working and your spouse took early retirement, that doesn't necessarily mean you will have to pay the alimony. Depending on the facts, if there is no significant difference in your income and your ex appears capable of working, a Wisconsin court may determine that your spouse can provide for their own needs. By contrast, if you make more than your ex and they can prove they need support, the divorce court may order that you pay them a designated amount for a limited or extended period.

Keeping Retirement Accounts

Depending on the circumstances, parties may decide to keep their respective retirement accounts rather than divide them in divorce. If one party earned less, they might end up agreeing to a property settlement that compensates them with more community assets instead of retirement.

The best way to determine how your spouse’s early retirement may impact your divorce is by consulting with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney. Your counsel can help you evaluate your divorce assets and determine your next steps.

Contact a Wisconsin Divorce Attorney

Retirement and property division during Wisconsin divorce can be complex. If you are contemplating or are involved in a Wisconsin divorce, you will want to work with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney.

Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with the experience you need to assist you with your Wisconsin divorce. If you have a divorce case in Metro Milwaukee, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.