Do I have to go back to work just because I’m getting a divorce?

When a married couple is building their life often decisions are made which help the household function but may leave one person at a financial disadvantage.   For instance, one partner may work while the other stays home to raise children.  This may have made practical sense and was good for the in-tact family.  But when a couple in this situation is getting a divorce, the unemployed partner will probably have concerns about having to return to work.

Spousal Maintenance

In some cases, a spouse may be able to avoid or delay returning to work with the support of spousal maintenance.  Wisconsin law does allow a court to order that one partner pay the other spousal maintenance or alimony when the other partner is at an economic disadvantage.  The idea is to provide the partner with fewer resources with enough money to maintain their standard of living.  These types of orders are calculated based on different factors such as how long the couple was married, the differences in earning potential, their ages, and whether one person stayed home to raise children while the other progressed in their career.  The court will also focus on the disadvantaged partner’s need as well as the other person’s ability to pay.  Depending on the facts, the court may order maintenance for a set period to give the individual time to prepare to meet his or her own needs.  In a situation where the spouse has formal education and work experience and has not been employed for a few years, the term may be limited to a reasonable amount of time to transition back into the workplace.  However, whether someone gets spousal maintenance depends heavily on the facts of the case and is in no way guaranteed.

Assets and Income

Having to return to work will also depend on the types of assets the couple will be dividing and if any of them can produce income for the non-working partner.  Additionally, if the couple has substantial wealth to divide or are receiving retirement funds, returning to work may not be necessary.  It is also possible that a spouse may agree to give the other more of the assets or to pay maintenance. If you are in a situation where you have been out of the workplace and are going through a divorce, it would be best to meet with an experienced family law attorney to talk about your specific circumstances. 

Attorney Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping people understand their financial options during and after divorce.  Call today to set your appointment to take a “first look” at your case and identify goals for your divorce.

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