Our West Bend alimony attorneys know how important it can be to seek alimony or to learn about your responsibilities for paying alimony after a relationship ends, and how courts make decisions about the amount and duration of an alimony award in the state. At Karp & Iancu, S.C., our firm is here to assist you with your alimony questions and concerns.
What is Alimony in West Bend?
Alimony is a term that refers to payments made by one spouse to another spouse following a separation, divorce, or annulment. While the term alimony is used commonly to describe these payments, you should know that Wisconsin law uses the term maintenance to describe payments made by one spouse to the other spouse. In other states, you might also see these payments described as spousal support.
Alimony or maintenance payments in Wisconsin are not based on fault (as they can be in some other states), but rather on the circumstances of the marriage and the needs of the spouse who is seeking maintenance.
Factors Courts Consider When Awarding Alimony in West Bend
Wisconsin law outlines a set of factors that courts in West Bend will consider when deciding whether to award maintenance to one of the spouses in a divorce or separation. The following is a list of those factors, summarized from the statute:
- Length the parties’ marriage;
- Age of the parties;
- Physical and emotional health of the parties;
- How courts divided community property and the separate property of the spouses;
- Educational levels of the parties at the time of the marriage, and then at the time of the divorce or separation;
- Earning capacity of each of the parties;
- Either party’s time away from education or a professional position for the benefit of the marriage or the family;
- Ability for the spouse seeking maintenance to become self-supporting through education or work experience;
- Amount of time likely necessary for the party seeking maintenance to become self-supporting;
- Tax consequences of a maintenance award to both parties;
- Any agreement the parties made previously concerning maintenance;
- Either party’s contribution to the other party’s education, professional growth, or earning power; and
- Other factors that the court decides are relevant for the parties’ circumstances.
Calculating Alimony in West Bend, Wisconsin
Alimony in West Bend is calculated on a case-by-case basis. Although there is a specific formula for calculating child support in Wisconsin, it is important to understand that alimony or maintenance calculations are quite different. Rather than plugging in the parties’ incomes and other factors into a formula, courts in Wisconsin consider the various factors listed above when deciding whether alimony should be awarded, as well as the amount and duration of the award when the court decides that maintenance is appropriate.
In general, when the court is calculating alimony, it will usually aim to ensure that both parties have a relatively equal disposable income, or it will seek to ensure that one of the spouses has sufficient money to meet his or her needs based on the standard of living established during the marriage. Alimony calculations can also be designed to ensure that, on a temporary basis, one of the spouses will be able to enjoy his or her standard of living while acquiring the necessary education or skills for self-support in the near future.
How Alimony Affects West Bend Taxes
You should know that the relationship between alimony and taxes changed relatively recently with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). Prior to these changes to the law, the payer spouse was not required to pay tax on the amount of money paid to the other party for alimony or maintenance, and the payee party (i.e., the person receiving alimony) was the party who was responsible for paying taxes on the amount received as if it were income. However, the tax situation has now shifted.
Under current law, the payer spouse is now responsible for paying income taxes on the maintenance amount, while the payee spouse (i.e., the person receiving the payments) is no longer responsible for paying taxes on the amount received. When determining the amount and duration of maintenance, the court can take into account the tax consequences for the payer spouse.
Modifications to West Bend Alimony
Situations can shift after a maintenance award is made, and it may be possible to seek a modification. In most cases, the paying spouse will seek a modification due to a substantial change in circumstances. It is important to know that you cannot modify a spousal maintenance order because you quit your job in order to avoid paying support. However, if a job loss or demotion occurs, or if you become disabled and unable to work, it may be possible to ask the court to modify the existing maintenance order.
When the payer or payee passes away, maintenance automatically terminates under Wisconsin law. However, there are other ways in which maintenance can terminate prior to the death of either party, including through an agreement between the parties or as a term of the original maintenance order.