Spousal Support & Alimony FAQs

Wisconsin Spousal Maintenance & Support FAQ’s

Milwaukee Attorneys Answer Your Alimony Questions

Alimony issues are a common concern for those filing for divorce in Wisconsin. Below we’ve outlined some of the most common questions concerning alimony and Wisconsin spousal maintenance. This is basic information to help give you an idea of what your options are. If you have specific questions, please contact us today so we can figure the best way to proceed depending on your specific needs and concerns. To get a more in-depth look at the specific Family Law matters we serve, check out our services for more information.


Who is entitled to maintenance and what are the criteria for awarding it?

Maintenance, or what used to be called alimony, is ordered by the Court based on certain factors. There is no definitive test in Wisconsin for when and how much maintenance should be ordered. This is discretionary decision by the Court based on the above stated factors and any other factor the court deems relevant. Some of those factors are:

  • The length of the marriage (b) the age and the physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The division of property
  • The educational level of each party
  • The earning capacity of each party
  • 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 the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  • The tax consequences to each party
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other.
  • An agreement between the parties and
  • An ability to pay by the party from whom maintenance is being sought. 

My spouse and I have only been married a short time, will I get maintenance?

Unless there is a large disparity between the income levels of the parties or the party requesting maintenance has health problems, a maintenance award in a short term marriage would be unusual. The longer the term of the marriage, the more likely a maintenance award is. 


Is there a general rule when determining maintenance?

Not really except when there is a fairly long term marriage where one party has the ability to pay and there is a disparity in incomes between the parties, the court would generally award maintenance. In that situation, the goal of the Court would be to either:

  • Equally allocate the net disposable incomes of the parties or
  • Meet the budget of the payee spouse, assuming it’s reasonable, in an effort to maintain a standard of living equal to a similar to what he/she enjoyed during the marriage. 

How long does maintenance last?

The court usually sets a definite term for maintenance except in certain cases such as an extremely long term marriage or where the person requesting maintenance has an inability to work. If maintenance is ordered for a set period of time and the party receiving maintenance feels it should continue, he or she can file a motion requesting an extension. This must be done, however, before the term of maintenance expires. 


Can maintenance be modified or terminated?

If the receiving party dies, remarries or begins living in a marital-like relationship, maintenance can be terminated. If the paying spouse dies, maintenance would also be terminated. The parties can agree to make maintenance non-modifiable in either amount or duration. That agreement would be enforceable by the court. Otherwise, maintenance is always modifiable based on a substantial change in the circumstances of either party. 


What are the tax consequences of maintenance?

The party receiving maintenance must declare those monies as income on his or her income tax return and that maintenance will be taxable to him or her. The party paying maintenance will be able to deduct those payments on his or her income tax returns. You can also usually deduct any attorney’s fees directly attributable to your receiving maintenance. 


What if my ex-spouse retires? Will my maintenance end?

The retirement of a paying spouse may justify modifying or terminating maintenance in certain circumstances. For example, if a paying spouse retires and has no other source of income except his or her retirement benefits, of which you received one-half at the time of the divorce, maintenance most likely would be terminated. However, that would depend on why the party retired, if he or she has other sources of income, the ability to pay maintenance after retirement and your ability to provide for yourself.

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