When one party does not pay the amount of alimony they are required to, the recipient may have to go to court to enforce the original order. Additionally, when circumstances change, either party can seek a modification of the original order. If you have a maintenance dispute, our Appleton alimony attorneys can help you resolve it.
What is Alimony in Appleton?
Alimony refers to financial payments made by one spouse to another. The intention of alimony is to help one party support themselves financially after their marriage ends. Alimony is not meant to leave one party in a better financial position than the other after a divorce. On the contrary, it is intended to ensure that both spouses are in a fairly equal financial position. For example, if one spouse stayed home to raise the kids while the other went off to work every day and advanced their career, the homemaker would likely be awarded alimony because they are not earning an income.
Factors Courts Consider when Making Decisions on Alimony
There are a number of factors the family law courts in Appleton will take into consideration when making decisions on alimony. These include:
- The duration of the marriage, which usually must be at least ten years
- Each party’s age
- The physical and emotional health of each party
- How property was distributed during property division hearings, as alimony could be awarded in lieu of marital property
- The education level of each party, both during the marriage at the time of dissolving it
- The earning capacity of each party, which requires considering their work experience, education level, custodial responsibilities to children, how long they have been out of the workforce, and any necessary expenses to obtain employment
- The likelihood of the spouse requesting alimony to become self-supporting
- Any tax consequences
- Any mutual agreement made between the spouses prior to or during the marriage
- The contribution either party made to further the career or earning power of their spouse
- Any other factor a family law judge considers relevant
Wisconsin law does not outline a specific formula when making decisions on alimony. It is important to work with a Appleton alimony attorney that will ensure all income and expenses are considered to ensure you receive a fair outcome.
Either the recipient of alimony or the person paying it can request a modification from the court. To do this, one must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances for either party. For example, if the person paying alimony lost their job, they may ask the court for a modification to reduce the amount they are responsible for paying. A modification can impact either the amount paid, or the duration of alimony.
Proving a substantial change in circumstances is not always as easy as it may sound. For example, your income may drop by ten percent, which is a substantial change. However, sometimes alimony is awarded as a percentage and not an amount. So, if you are paying 17 percent of your income towards alimony, a drop in income will not substantially change your circumstances. Although your income has been reduced, the amount you will pay in alimony will also drop.
It is a common misconception that alimony payments automatically stop once the recipient remarries. While this is true in some cases, it is not true in all. Whether or not remarriage will affect alimony entirely depends on the language within the order. For example, if the original order states that the payer will make alimony payments indefinitely, that may include after a remarriage.
On the other hand, when a person paying alimony gets remarried, that could also have an impact on the amount paid. This type of remarriage typically does not directly affect alimony, but it can have an indirect effect. For example, if you pay alimony and get remarried, you may choose to have children with your new spouse. Since you would be considered financially responsible for those children, a modification may be possible to reduce the amount you pay your former spouse.
Unfortunately, there are times when the person ordered to pay alimony does not. In these cases, recipients can file for contempt of court. Technically speaking, being found in contempt of court can result in jail time. In the case of enforcing alimony, fines are more likely. The person found in contempt of court may also be ordered to reimburse the recipient for their legal fees.
In addition to being found in contempt of court, a judge can enforce an alimony order in a number of ways. The most common is through wage garnishment. If the judge orders a wage garnishment, they send an order to the payer’s employer authorizing them to take a portion of the employee’s paycheck. The employer then forwards that amount to the court, who distributes it to the recipient.
To avoid the issue of enforcement, it is sometimes better to ask for a lump sum payment rather than incremental payments. With a lump sum agreement, the recipient is given one large amount one time, instead of smaller payments over the course of years. An Appleton alimony attorney can advise on which type of alimony is right for your case.