Spousal maintenance, or alimony, as it’s more commonly known, is not a “given” in any divorce case. Unfortunately for divorcing couples in Wisconsin who are looking for a definite answer about whether alimony will be ordered, there also isn’t a set formula for determining how much spousal maintenance one spouse might expect to receive from the other. There are many factors that Wisconsin divorce courts consider when determining whether, and how much, spousal maintenance is appropriate. In general, the courts seek to make financial decisions fair, recognizing that one former spouse could be unfairly burdened without the additional financial support he or she relied on during the marriage.
Courts will evaluate the following when determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate:
- How long did the marriage last? A marriage of 20+ years is more likely to support the need for spousal maintenance than a marriage of just six months.
- How old is each spouse, and are they in good health? Courts will consider the age of each spouse as well as their overall physical and emotional health.
- What educational level has each spouse attained? Another consideration is each spouse’s educational level, both at the time they got married and at the time divorce proceedings were initiated.
- What is the earning capacity of the spouse who is asking for spousal maintenance? Courts will evaluate the requesting spouse’s “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.” WI Statutes 767.56(1c)(e).
- How long would it take the requesting spouse to become self-supporting? Courts will also evaluate whether the spouse asking for maintenance payments could become self-supporting at a standard of living comparable to their standard of living during the marriage, and how long it would take.
- Did one spouse contribute to the other’s education or career? If one spouse stayed at home to care for children so the other could go back to school or pursue a career, courts may place a value on that contribution to the marriage.
- Was there any type of pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement? Valid agreements between the spouses will be upheld.
- How will tax consequences affect each party? Under current tax law and for divorces before December 31, 2018, alimony payments are tax-deductible by the payor and are treated as taxable income for the recipient. Courts will consider this when making spousal maintenance determinations.
- How was the couple’s property divided? Wisconsin courts will also consider spousal maintenance requests in light of the couple’s overall property division in the divorce.
Courts May Limit the Time Period for Spousal Maintenance Payments
It’s also important to understand that a spousal maintenance award does not necessarily mean that alimony payments must continue indefinitely; the court may award spousal maintenance for a limited time, with the goal that the recipient spouse would be able to support him- or herself at the end of that time period.
In the event no set time limit is provided, maintenace will terminate if either spouse dies or if the recipient spouse gets remarried.
Work with a Trusted Wisconsin Divorce Attorney
To learn more about spousal maintenance or about filing for divorce in Wisconsin, contact an experienced family law attorney at Schott, Bublitz & Engel, s.c. Call 262.827.1700 today to schedule your free consultation.
By AnnMarie Sylla
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