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Alimony & Maintenance Wisconsin

Questions answered in this article:
What is alimony?  | Are there different kinds of alimony? | How much does alimony cost?  | How is alimony calculated? | How long do I have to pay alimony? | How long do I get alimony? | Is alimony tax deductible? | Can alimony be avoided in Wisconsin? | How do I file to receive alimony?
Jump to a section:
Alimony vs Child Support  | Rehabilitative Alimony | Compensatory Alimony | Lifestyle Maintenance

Sometimes fairness dictates that spouses must continue to share income after the divorce has concluded. This can happen, for example, when the parties have had a long marriage and only one party was the primary income-earner, or when one party needs a little extra time to establish a professional earning history that will allow him or her to support themselves at the standard of living both parties enjoyed during the marriage. When such circumstances exist, the court can order spousal support or “maintenance.”

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, otherwise known as spousal support or “maintenance”, is support that is paid for the purpose of helping a spouse after a divorce or even sometimes during the pendency of a divorce case.

Alimony vs Child Support

Oftentimes in a divorce, alimony is issued to solely benefit a spouse, while child support is put in place to benefit strictly for the sake of the children. Learn more about your child support options, here.

Are there different kinds of alimony?

Yes, there are three different types of alimony. Courts typically order spousal support for one of three purposes:

1. Rehabilitative: This is for the purpose of getting someone back on their feet. Perhaps they’re just finishing school or they’re just about to get back into the workforce and they need some training and a divorce hits. This will help people get the education they need or the job credits that they need to get back on their feet. This is usually a shorter term type of maintenance.

This type of maintenance is generally for a short term.

2. Compensatory: The best example of this is where a spouse maybe put aside his or her career and harmed his or her earning capacity to put the other spouse through college or medical school, for example. Now the parties are getting a divorce and one party got an education and is able to earn a larger wage while the other party sacrificed his or her earnings and now is seeking to be compensated for that.

This is the least common type of spousal support.

3. Lifestyle Maintenance: This is by far the most common type of maintenance that we see. This type of maintenance is paid so that the spouses can enjoy a lifestyle similar to that enjoyed during the marriage. Typically, this is going to be ordered on a longer term marriage of more than 10 to 15 years, but can sometimes be ordered on shorter marriages as well.

This kind of spousal support can be awarded for a fixed term or can even be awarded indefinitely under certain circumstances.

How much does alimony cost?

How is alimony calculated?

Unlike child support, which is based on a prescribed mathematical formula, spousal support is left to the subjective discretion of the judge who must make a decision based on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • the length of marriage
  • the age of each spouse
  • the physical and mental health of both parties
  • the education level and work history of both parties
  • the earning capacity of each party
  • the actual earning of each party
  • the likelihood that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage
    each party’s contributions to the marriage

However, the driving consideration is how to fairly share income between the spouses so that, to the extent possible, the financial consequences of the divorce are borne equally by both parties and that both parties are given roughly the same tools and opportunity to financially recover.

How long do I have to pay alimony?

A judge takes two things into consideration when deciding how long you or your spouse will be responsible or paying a specific amount of alimony—alimony amount and alimony terms.

While alimony is a binding financial agreement that could likely not end until you remarry or until either spouse passes away, your payment terms can change. For example, if you lose your job years after your initial alimony agreement with your old spouse, you won’t have any income to substantiate your payment, so instead of risking penalization, you’d return to the court and request a change to your alimony payments amount.

When doing so, remember that the judge will need proof that your financial situation has changed significantly enough that you can’t make your payments. After that, the judge will prepare a better payment plan for them, and your spousal maintenance will change. Learn about other factors that influence whether or not you can modify your alimony agreement.

How long do I get alimony?

You can receive alimony from anywhere from a set period of months—or more likely— years based on the goals and objectives of your court-approved alimony agreement. As mentioned above, alimony duration and amount is subsequent to change if one spouse’s circumstances change during that time period.

In some cases, the court will order “indefinite” maintenance. This does not mean you will receive (or vice versa pay) alimony forever—it means the order will remain in effect until further order of the court.This is the court’s way of leaving the maintenance termination date “open” and flexible in order to accommodate changing circumstances such as a party’s pending retirement, the receipt of a forthcoming inheritance, or the emancipation of the parties’ children.

In any event, an alimony agreement typically terminates automatically if the recipient spouse remarries or if either spouse dies.

Is alimony tax deductible?

Not anymore.  Alimony used to be tax deductible, but for orders entered on or after January 1, 2019, it is no longer tax deductible.

Can alimony be avoided in Wisconsin?

Short answer: sometimes, but it depends.

  • Think ahead. If you make more money than your spouse, consider entering a prenuptial agreement to protect your financial assets and avoid paying alimony in the future.
  • Request a vocational evaluation for your spouse to complete. This is an objective assessment issued and reviewed by judge to determine your spouse’s ability to work and their potential earnings.
  • Give evidence that your spouse is financially stable on their own. Investigate whether or not they’ve got trust funds or other assets under their name that could support their current lifestyle.
  • End your marriage as soon as you can. The longer a marriage lasts, the higher the likelihood one spouse will pay more alimony for a longer period of time. Although difficult and emotionally draining, when you know you want to call it quits, call it quits.
  • Request an end date for alimony payment. Shorter marriages typically warrant half of the alimony time. In Wisconsin, if you have been married less than ten years, you can request an end date.

How do I file to receive alimony?

There are two ways to kick-off the process of asking for alimony in a divorce. Both will be presented to you within your first conversation with an attorney.

Option 1: Mediation. Talk to one of our experienced mediators for help on how to guide you and your spouse toward a joint agreement without the stressors of a courtroom. Although cost will vary based on your needs, the starting price for mediation services at Karp & Iancu is $1,799 per spouse.

Option 2: Litigation. Schedule a no-cost, no pressure consultation with one of our family law attorneys.

Read more about the benefits of choosing mediation over litigation.


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Related Content About Alimony In Wisconsin

Waivers of Maintenance in Wisconsin – What you need to know about your rights related to waiving maintenance in Wisconsin

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