In Wisconsin, the statute uses the term “spousal maintenance” to address the concept. In short, either party to a divorce case can request alimony, and a judge may award it when appropriate to balance the parties’ financial interests. However, in practice, divorce proceedings involving spousal support can be complex and rife with heated disputes.
Regardless of whether you could be receiving alimony or ordered to pay it, it is critical to retain quality legal representation. There are multiple types of spousal maintenance, along with numerous factors that a court will consider when awarding it and establishing the details. You can count on Karp & Iancu, S.C. to protect your rights, as our Kenosha alimony attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of parties to Wisconsin divorce. Please contact our firm to schedule a no-cost consultation, and check out a useful overview of the key concepts.
Overview of Wisconsin Spousal Maintenance Laws
Marriage is a legal partnership in which the parties share assets, income, and debts. When the partnership terminates, fairness may dictate that they continue to share in income after the divorce case concludes. Alimony ensures that both spouses can maintain a standard of living that is reasonably close to what they shared during the marriage. Generally, the wealthier party will pay spousal support to the other. A court is more likely to award maintenance when:
- One party gave up significant education and/or employment opportunities to contribute to the marriage and family;
- A lower earning spouse needs support to establish a career that will enable him or her to be financially self-sufficient; or
- The marriage was long in duration and the parties are older, making it difficult for the lower earning spouse to enter the workforce.
Types of Alimony
There are multiple forms of spousal maintenance that aim to serve the parties in different situations. The factors a judge reviews in assessing alimony are described in detail below, but the court may order one of three types:
- Rehabilitative: As the term suggests, spousal support may be awarded to restore one party’s ability to become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony might go toward getting a degree, completing educational requirements, or training for a job. It is most appropriate as a short-term arrangement directed at employment opportunities.
- Compensatory: When one party puts aside career goals to contribute to the other’s education or employment opportunities, there are adverse implications for his or her own earning capacity. For instance, a spouse might work to pay for medical school, but it is the other spouse that retains the benefit of the degree. Compensatory alimony is a way to pay back the party who financially contributed to education and/or sacrificed earnings.
- Lifestyle Maintenance: The most common type of spousal support intends to minimize the financial disruption of divorce and allow a lower earning party to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. A judge is most likely to award this type of alimony for longer term marriages, and it may be fixed in duration or indefinite.
Steps for Seeking Spousal Support
Either party can request spousal maintenance via petition in connection with a pending divorce case. The petition should include all relevant facts that support an award of alimony, so documents, affidavit testimony, and other evidence will be crucial. The respondent spouse will be entitled to answer the allegations, dispute the evidence, and present additional information contesting an award of support. The judge will make a decision on spousal maintenance by applying the law to the facts, which requires review of several alimony factors, including:
- The length of the marriage;
- The physical and mental health of both parties;
- Each spouse’s age;
- The parties’ work history, level of education, and degrees;
- The spouses’ earning capacity and actual income;
- The potential for a lower earning party to become self-sufficient through employment; and,
- Each party’s contributions to the marital relationship.
How a Divorce Attorney Can Help
Despite the process for requesting alimony and factors a court will consider, keep in mind that the parties can agree on spousal maintenance. You can sidestep the rigid divorce laws, giving you more control over the arrangement. Karp & Iancu, S.C. will advise you during settlement discussions to ensure protection of your rights, and we will handle negotiations, drafting an agreement, and entering court orders.
However, because alimony is a thorny issue, there can be challenges with reaching an agreement. Our Kenosha alimony lawyers are prepared to assist with other options for addressing spousal maintenance, such as:
- Mediation: Even when you believe agreement is impossible, parties are often able to compromise on spousal support when they participate in mediation. During this proceeding, a trained mediator guides the parties in productive conversations about the dispute. By seeing each other’s viewpoint, it may be possible to agree.
- Contested Hearings: Any remaining disputes regarding alimony must go to a hearing before the judge, a proceeding that is similar to a trial. The court will review the statutory factors described above in rendering a decision.
In addition, you can trust our lawyers to help with spousal maintenance issues that arise post-divorce. We can assist with enforcement if the payor violates the terms of the alimony order, or if modifications are necessary because of a substantial change in circumstances.