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Understanding Wisconsin Alimony

Understanding Wisconsin Alimony

  • Divorce can be devastating on multiple levels. Not only will you have to manage the pain of losing your relationship, you may also be changing homes, and facing significant financial challenges. In some Wisconsin divorces, it may be necessary for one spouse to pay the other spousal maintenance (alimony) after the case is over. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve short or long-term support. If you believe alimony may be an issue in your Wisconsin divorce, it’s important that you understand how it works and when it may be available. Here is more on understanding Wisconsin alimony.

Understanding Wisconsin Alimony

  • The consequences of divorce don't end when your final documents are signed. The choices you make during your case can impact you and your ability to support yourself for years to come. Therefore, it's essential to consider your future finances while making decisions during your case.
  • The practical reality is that both parties may not have the same resources or earning capacity. There can be numerous reasons for this disparity. For example, it could be that one partner stayed home and raised children while the other went to school and worked. It may also be that both spouses work, but one earns substantially more than the other. There may also be significant differences in their education and training.
  • During a Wisconsin divorce, the court will also try to leave each person in a position where they can maintain approximately the same or a similar standard of living they had during the marriage. In some cases, it may be necessary for one party to provide financial support to the other to attain this balance. In such a case, Wisconsin law provides that the court may order the more financially well-off party to pay the other spousal maintenance or alimony.

Will I Automatically Get Alimony During My Wisconsin Divorce?

  • One question that commonly comes up is whether a party will automatically get alimony during their Wisconsin divorce. The answer is no. A Wisconsin divorce court has the discretion to award spousal maintenance, but it is not obligated to do so. Instead, the court will look at numerous factors to decide if alimony is warranted.

How Does a Wisconsin Divorce Court Decide Whether or Not to Order Alimony?

  • Wisconsin law provides multiple factors for a divorce court to consider when deciding whether or not to order alimony. In determining whether maintenance will be ordered, the court will consider all of the following factors:
    • How long the parties were married,
    • The spouses’ relative ages and physical and emotional health,
    • How the couple’s property and debt is being divided,
    • Each person's educational level when the couple married, and at the time the case began,
    • The earning capacity of the spouse who is requesting maintenance including their:
    • Education, “training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market,”
    • Parenting responsibilities, and
    • How much time and expenses it would take for them to get the necessary education or training to be able to find suitable employment.
    • How feasible it is for the requesting spouse to “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,"
    • Each party’s tax consequences,
    • Certain types of mutual financial agreements made between the parties before or during the marriage,
    • One party’s contribution to “the education, training or increased earning power of the other,” and
    • Any other factors the court deems to be relevant to the case.
  • The court will use these statutory factors to determine if maintenance is appropriate. Further, the court is unlikely to order maintenance if it will cause the obligated party to be without the income; they also need to provide support for themselves.

How Long Does Wisconsin Alimony Last?

  • Depending on the circumstances, a Wisconsin court may order alimony payments for a limited or indefinite length of time. There can be situations where one spouse will pay the other alimony for a few months. However, there may be others when a maintenance order lasts for years. Still, there can be cases where one party may have to pay some financial support to the other for the rest of their life. 

How Much Alimony Will I Receive in a Wisconsin Divorce?

  • A Wisconsin divorce court has broad discretion in setting the amount of alimony. Additionally, maintenance orders often vary according to the details of the case and by court. An alimony award may be ordered as a set amount, but it can also be a percentage. A percentage amount may be ordered when the paying party’s income is less predictable.

When Will My Wisconsin Alimony End?

  • Wisconsin alimony orders will end according to their terms. Some orders will last a few months, while others can be for years. There are also those that will endure for the life of the paying party. According to Wisconsin law, unless an order has already been terminated for some reason, a maintenance order terminates when the payee or payor passes away, or when the payee remarries, whichever occurs first.
  • If you are involved in a Wisconsin divorce case, it is vital that you work with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney who has the skills and abilities to represent your interests. Your lawyer can help you understand Wisconsin alimony and the other important issues in your case.

Contact an Experienced Wisconsin Divorce Attorney

  • Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is an attorney and Mediator with over 29 years of experience helping clients understand their options and connect with resources before, during, and after their Wisconsin divorce cases. She can help you understand more about Wisconsin alimony and all other aspects of your case. If you have a divorce case in Brookfield, Waukesha, or Metro Milwaukee, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.