- For many people, ending a marriage will mean abruptly adapting to living on their own after having built a life where they shared expenses with their spouse. In some cases, divorce can place one spouse at a significant financial disadvantage, especially if they stayed home while their partner advanced their education and worked. In Wisconsin, someone in this situation may want to ask the court to award alimony (spousal maintenance) to help them provide for their present and future living expenses. If you are considering divorce in Waukesha County and have concerns about your future income, you will want to know: What are the chances of getting maintenance/alimony in Waukesha County?
Divorce and Dividing Assets
- Wisconsin is a community property state. This means that, outside of certain limited exceptions such as pre-nuptial agreements, inheritances, and third party gifts, both parties equally own everything the couple has brought to or acquired during the marriage. Further, each spouse will have a fifty percent interest in their marital funds, property, and other assets regardless of whether one or both worked during their marriage.
- A Wisconsin divorce court is responsible for ensuring that there is a fair and equitable division of a couple’s property. In many instances, a couple will divide what they own according to what they agree upon as being equitable. This may mean allotting mutually owned assets in a way that does not require them to be split. For example, if a couple owns a home, they may agree that one spouse gets the property while the other is awarded all of a jointly owned bank account. Further, when both spouses have contributed to retirement accounts, they may agree that each will keep their retirement rather than dividing their individual interests. If the parties can’t agree on how to divide their assets, a Wisconsin divorce court will award property to each party respectively in the manner it deems equitable under the law.
Wisconsin Divorce and Alimony (Spousal Maintenance)
- Wisconsin law provides that a party may request spousal maintenance during a divorce. Spousal maintenance is designed to put parties on relatively equal footing, so they have what they need to live reasonably close to how they lived during the marriage. However, the court may or may not grant a maintenance request. Further, in some instances, a spousal maintenance order will be temporary rather than permanent.
- If one spouse needs time to get more education or find work and the other has more earning power and resources, a court may order that the more financially well-off spouse pay the other a certain amount for a limited amount of time. However, suppose an older couple was married for thirty years, and one spouse stayed home and forewent higher education to raise their children while the other went to college and worked. In that case, a Wisconsin divorce court may consider these facts and decide that the income-earning spouse should pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse on an indefinite basis.
A Waukesha divorce court will look at multiple factors when deciding on spousal maintenance. In its assessment, the court will examine the following:
- The length of the marriage,
- The age and physical and emotional health of the parties,
- How community property is being divided,
- The educational level of each party at the time of marriage, and at the time the action is commenced,
- The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment,
- The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal,
- The tax consequences for each person,
- Any mutual prior or marital agreement between the parties concerning financial contribution and reciprocation, contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other, and
- any other relevant factors.
Alimony in Waukesha County
- As indicated above, when deciding on spousal maintenance, a Wisconsin court will examine how a couple’s assets are being divided during the divorce. Often, long-term support is reserved for situations where a couple has been in a longer marriage (more than ten years), and one spouse has not worked or earned significantly less than the other. For example, this may be a circumstance where one spouse stayed home to raise children while the other supported the family financially and advanced in their education and career. When both parties have relatively equal earning capacity, the court is less likely to require one to pay the other maintenance. Additionally, a Waukesha court is not likely to require one spouse to pay support to the other when it causes the obligated spouse to have less income than they require for their own expenses.
Contact and Experienced Wisconsin Divorce Attorney
- If you are involved in a divorce case in Waukesha County or Metro Milwaukee and believe spousal maintenance may be an issue in your case, it’s crucial that you consult with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney. Your divorce attorney can help you examine the factors pertaining to Wisconsin spousal maintenance and determine the best way to present your case to the court.
- Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law understands the complexities of divorce and Wisconsin spousal maintenance. She is an attorney and Mediator with over 29 years of experience helping clients understand their options and connect with resources before, during, and after their Wisconsin divorce cases. If you have a divorce case in Waukesha County or Metro Milwaukee, please contact us today and let us take a “first look” at your situation.