Wisconsin alimony isn’t a requirement by law, but courts may find it appropriate to order it during or even after divorce if one spouse requires financial support.
Alimony isn’t always court-ordered; spouses can agree that one party needs financial support during and after divorce.
A spouse can better maintain the living standard established during the marriage by receiving alimony. This article discusses various aspects of alimony, including its determination, payment, and modification.
How To Calculate Alimony in Wisconsin
Calculating alimony in Wisconsin is not done using a formula like in determining child support. Judges must first establish the need and ability to pay alimony. To decide the type and calculate the amount and duration of maintenance, courts will consider the following factors:
- Both spouse’s age and physical and emotional health.
- The duration of the marriage.
- Each spouse’s education level at the time of marriage and the time of duration.
- The division of marital property in the divorce.
- The supported spouse’s earning capacity considering their educational background, employment skills, training, work experience, custodial responsibilities for minor children, duration of absence from the job market, and the resources necessary to get education or training to get suitable employment.
- The possibility of the supported spouse becoming self-supporting and obtaining a standard of living similar to that established during the marriage.
- The contribution of either spouse to the education, training, or career advancement of the other spouse.
- Any agreements reached by the spouses before or during the marriage.
- Any other factor the court deems relevant to the divorce case.
– Amount of Alimony
In addition to the factors for determining alimony, courts will also consider any child support award when deciding the amount of maintenance. If the divorcing couple has a minor child, child support will likely be part of the divorce process.
According to alimony laws in Wisconsin, a court may order what is referred to as “family support” if the custodial parent is entitled to child support and requests spousal support. It combines the two payments – child support and spousal maintenance.
While one payment could impact the amount of the other, courts have to follow the laws of each type of obligation and calculate them separately.
It is worth noting that courts have broad discretion in deciding the amount of maintenance. Since there are no guidelines to determine spousal support amount, spousal support orders vary significantly depending on the county and judge.
Wisconsin courts prefer to set a specific amount of support in divorce cases. However, the support award can be a percentage of the payor spouse’s income where their income is unpredictable.
– Duration of Alimony
The duration of maintenance may vary depending on various reasons, including the type of support ordered. However, most judges intend maintenance to continue until the recipient spouse becomes self-supporting. Where limited-term or rehabilitative support is awarded, the court will set the date when support will terminate.
Courts may also order indefinite spousal support in cases where spouses have been in a long-term marriage or where a spouse’s health issues, age, or absence from the workforce makes it difficult to attain financial independence.
How To Pay Spousal Support Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, the commonest way of paying alimony is making periodic payments, usually monthly. This payment method is common with parties who have a regular paycheck. In such cases, the court will likely include an income withholding order to allow the employer to deduct the support amount ordered automatically.
While payments can be made directly to the supported spouse upon the court’s approval, the court may order payments to be made through the state’s trust fund, Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund.
Where monthly payments are not an option, the payor spouse can satisfy a support order by making a lump-sum payment. It could be a one-time payment or one made in various installments. The payor spouse can also pay Wisconsin spousal maintenance by transferring the property title to the supported spouse.
If the supporting spouse doesn’t pay support on time, the supported spouse can request the court to enforce payment through a contempt motion. If the court finds that the supporting spouse is in default of support payments, it can:
- Enter an order of contempt of court.
- Order that outstanding judgments or orders be paid.
- Demand that the supporting spouse’s securities be sold to pay support.
- Order garnishment of wages.
When a court enters a contempt order, it conducts a hearing for both spouses to state their positions. If the judge establishes that the payor spouse intentionally failed to pay support, they can order that the spouse pay penalties such as fines, and legal fees, or serve a jail term until support arrears are paid.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony in Wisconsin
Since alimony is a common issue during a divorce, some spouses prepare for times by specifying the terms of alimony in case of a divorce. A prenup is a good way to do this, as it is a document that outlines spouses’ agreements regarding the various issues in marriage, including spousal support.
Spouses can therefore avoid paying alimony by indicating non-payment in the prenup. If the prenup satisfies all the terms of a legal prenup, the court may uphold and enforce it during a divorce.
If a couple doesn’t have a prenup, the payor spouse can still avoid paying alimony by demonstrating to the court that spousal support isn’t necessary to maintain the status quo. For instance, the spouse can show that there isn’t a significant disparity in incomes between the parties.
The payor spouse may also release interest in some marital property or other assets to ensure that the spouse requesting support has a significant amount of property after property division. This way, the court may find it unfair or unreasonable to order Wisconsin spousal support.
– Modification of Alimony
Unless spouses agree that support is non-modifiable, either spouse can request that the court review the terms of support, including the amount or duration of support. An agreement non-modification usually means the court shall have no further power over support.
A party seeking the modification of support must demonstrate a material change in the circumstances upon which the order was predicated and that the change in those circumstances makes the existing support order inappropriate or unfair. The requesting spouse must also file a motion to modify before they stop paying support. Generally, the court considers the same factors it considered when entering the original support order.
For instance, the payor spouse may petition the court to modify support if they suffer an involuntary job loss, long-term illness, or life changes. Most importantly, the payor spouse has to continue making payments until a hearing for support modification occurs, and the judge rules otherwise.
The retirement of the supporting spouse is another reason that could trigger a review of spousal support. Support could likely be modified or terminated if the payor spouse retires and has no other income source apart from their retirement benefits.
However, courts will consider why the party retired, their present sources of income, and whether they can still make support payments after retirement.
– Termination of Alimony
Wisconsin alimony laws provide that support automatically terminates upon the death of the payor or supported spouse. Termination of support in the state also depends on the type of maintenance and whether the court set an end date for the award.
A judge will likely include an end date for limited-term support in the alimony order. For instance, if the court estimated that it would take three years for the dependent spouse to become self-supporting, then support will automatically terminate once that time elapses.
However, the court may review the support order to evaluate the suitability of an extension if the supported spouse remains financially dependent after that stipulated duration.
In Wisconsin, the court can also terminate alimony if the supported spouse remarries or begins to live with another party in a marriage-like relationship. This is particularly the case if the court establishes that such a relationship puts the supported spouse in a better financial position, making support payments unfair.
In some cases, the payor spouse may seek the termination of support if the supported spouse becomes self-supporting within a shorter duration than the court anticipated. If the court ordered limited-term support for four years, but the supported spouse acquires job training and gets employment within three years, support can be terminated if the court finds maintenance inappropriate.
– How Long Do You Have To Be Married in Wisconsin To Get Alimony?
In Wisconsin, the length of your marriage often determines the duration and amount of alimony. However, even the most recent Wisconsin alimony reform doesn’t specify how long one has to be married for the court to order support. Yet, it is common for courts to award alimony in long-term marriages.
In divorce cases, courts may deny a request for maintenance if the spouses were married for less than 10 years. Courts may order limited-term alimony in marriages that lasted 10-20 years to help the supported spouse become self-supporting.
For longer marriages (20 years or more), courts may award indefinite maintenance depending on the likelihood of the supported spouse becoming self-supporting.
– What Is a Non-working Spouse Entitled to in a Divorce in Wisconsin?
In many Wisconsin divorce cases, a non-working spouse is entitled to receive maintenance payments from their ex-spouse. Such a spouse is also entitled to 50 percent of the marital property. However, the court will determine if that spouse is voluntarily or involuntarily unemployed as this could impact alimony.
An unemployed spouse is entitled to receive child support payments if they are the custodial parent of a minor child from that marriage. In some cases, a non-working spouse can also request the court to order the other spouse to pay their legal expenses for divorce to get good legal representation.
– Do You Have To Pay Spousal Support in Wisconsin?
Spousal support isn’t automatic during a divorce. If one spouse requests spousal support upon the filing of divorce, they must prove the need for support, and the court must establish that the other spouse can pay alimony while meeting their financial needs. Most importantly, paying alimony shouldn’t put them in a dire financial position.
The high-earning spouse is only obligated to pay support if the court establishes that the requesting spouse is eligible for support by considering various factors. If the court determines that the spouse requesting support isn’t eligible, the other spouse doesn’t have to pay.
– Does Cohabitation Affect Alimony in Wisconsin?
Under alimony law in Wisconsin, courts can consider cohabitation as a factor in the modification or termination of support payments. However, cohabitation doesn’t automatically terminate or lead to modification of support; the payor spouse has to show that the recipient spouse benefits financially from the relationship, making support payments unfair.
The payor spouse may have to show that their ex-spouse and the new partner share expenses, have joint assets and accounts, or hold themselves out as a married couple. If the two parties financially support each other, the court can adjust or terminate support payments.
Alimony isn’t an automatic award in Wisconsin – it is only awarded based on need and ability to pay. If a spouse needs financial support to maintain their marital standard of living, they must petition the court to order alimony. In this article, we’ve discussed the factors considered by courts to determine and calculate spousal support in Wisconsin. Here is a summary to wrap up the discussion:
- There is no guideline or formula for calculating the amount and duration of alimony in Wisconsin.
- Support payments can be made by periodically remitting a part of a paycheck, transferring property title, or paying a lump sum.
- While a significant change in circumstances may warrant a modification or termination of alimony, the payor spouse must continue paying until a judge enters a new order.
Alimony in Wisconsin is meant to support a financially dependent spouse through divorce by helping them maintain the standard of living they’ve become accustomed to. Spousal support is also meant to help the supported spouse get an education or vocational training necessary to acquire employment and become self-supporting.
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