I rely on my partner’s income but want a divorce: What are my options?
When you are financially dependent on your spouse and want to leave the marriage, you can feel powerless and trapped. For many in this situation, staying in an unhappy marriage out of fear of the unknown may seem like the only option. However, remaining in the wrong relationship for financial reasons can come with painful emotional consequences.
Differences in Income
There are several reasons why one spouse may depend on the other financially. For example, one partner may have stayed home to raise children while the other supported the family. Perhaps a spouse may not have been physically able to work. In other cases, one person may have earned so much income that the couple decided to live on that single income. Maybe both people work, but one person significantly out-earns the other. When the marriage experiences problems, the spouse with lower or no income may have a hard time conceiving of how he or she will make ends meet on his or her own. This is especially complicated in cases with children.
Evaluating Your Situation
The first step in evaluating your options is to develop a realistic budget and determine where you believe you could afford to live. It is also critical that you have credit in your own name and potentially access to your marital assets such as bank and savings accounts. A large part of determining what you will need comes from knowing what you and your partner already have. Once you have a more precise picture of what you have to work with it will take time to develop a plan. If you are truly “in the dark” about the family finances, a more drastic approach may have to be taken depending on whether or not your spouse is financially controlling.
Wisconsin is a community property state which means that in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, you and your partner own all of your marital assets equally. This also means that you own all marital debts 50/50. Even if one partner’s income paid for a home or instance, you each own half of the interest, including its equity. Wisconsin courts also have the discretion to award spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance or alimony is an amount of income one spouse can be ordered to pay the other after divorce. The court can order this support indefinitely or for a limited amount of time. To make a decision, the court will look at factors such as the length of the marriage, the parties’ ages and health, and relative education and earning potential. Depending on your circumstances, the property division may result in you having some funds to start your new life. Additionally, if the court decides you should be paid maintenance, this amount should help you get on your feet.
The thought of leaving the financial security of your marriage can be intimidating. However, staying with your partner indefinitely when you are no longer emotionally connected can lead to bitter resentment and a miserable existence at home. Explore your options by meeting with an experienced family law attorney.