What is Spousal Maintenance and how is it determined in Wisconsin?
Spousal maintenance, also referred to as “spousal support” or “alimony”, is a monetary judgment awarded by the court, to be paid by one spouse to the other, during the divorce process. Its purpose is to equalize the economic circumstances of the two parties so that a standard of living can be maintained upon dissolution of the marriage. Situations that may result in an award of spousal maintenance typically include one party putting their career on hold to become a stay-at-home parent, or when one spouse earned significantly higher wages than the other during the course of the marriage.
How much Spousal Maintenance will be awarded?
In Wisconsin, the courts have broad discretion when awarding maintenance. While there are no set guidelines, the court must consider the maintenance factors found within section 767.56 of the Wisconsin Statutes. Some of those factors take into consideration the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the earning capacity of the individual seeking maintenance, and the education level of each party at the time of dissolution.
Even after consideration of these factors, the court is still not bound by any specific set of monetary parameters that might otherwise guide the awarding of maintenance. As such, orders of maintenance will vary considerably across counties and judges.
Despite the built-in discretion that the courts and judges have at their disposal, the evaluation of maintenance will often carry with it the proposition that the recipient spouse should receive 50% of the combined earnings of both parties. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. As mentioned, the court must consider several statutory factors in making its decision. Because of this, it can be difficult for the practitioner (attorney) to predict the amount of maintenance, if any, to be awarded, should the matter proceed to a contested hearing.
How long will I receive Maintenance?
The length (term) of maintenance is not the same across courts in Wisconsin. Rather, the length is specific to each individual case and is dependent on several discretionary factors. Typically, a court will fashion the term of maintenance to allow the recipient spouse to have become self-supporting by the end of the present term. In doing so, the court retains discretion to determine the length of any continued maintenance and thus may grant maintenance awards for a fixed duration or for an indefinite time period.
Can Maintenance be terminated?
In Wisconsin, if the receiving spouse dies, remarries, or begins living in a marriage-like relationship, maintenance may be terminated. Maintenance obligations may also be terminated by stipulation.
The issues surrounding Maintenance can be stressful to both spouses, whether receiving or paying. Having competent counsel drastically improves your ability to maximize your maintenance potential — or to defend against a maintenance request. Here at J.G. Law we have the experience to advocate for you during your divorce, especially when maintenance is involved. To learn more about your spousal maintenance rights or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today at (920) 383-1116.