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Wisconsin Alimony

Wisconsin laws refer to alimony as spousal maintenance, or simply maintenance. The court can order maintenance in any divorce or legal separation, but it is not required, according to Wisconsin Statutes section 767.56. These awards grant maintenance to either spouse and do so for either a limited or indefinite time.

Wisconsin courts consider various factors in deciding to award maintenance and its duration. Either party may seek alimony as part of the decree. The court considers each party’s situation in determining whether to award alimony, the amount and duration.

The court considers how long the couple was married, the property distribution in the divorce, income of each partner and what each contributed to the marriage. Duration of the marriage is an important factor in determining the duration of spousal support. Divorces ending short marriages often result in little or no spousal support; longer marriages may result in long-term or permanent awards.

The court also has the right to consider any other factors it considers relevant.

Alimony orders are court orders, so if the payor fails to make payments, Wisconsin Statutes section 767.77 grants the recipient remedies to enforce it, including garnishing wages, taking a security interest against real property, and sanctioning the payor for contempt of court, which may bring additional financial penalties and even imprisonment.

When one party can demonstrate what the law terms a "substantial change in circumstances, " Wisconsin Statutes section 767.59 permits the court to modify alimony orders. Either party can ask the court to change the alimony award, either in duration, amount or both. However, the party asking the court for a change must show that there has been a "substantial change in circumstances." Modification or termination remains with the court that granted the dissolution.

Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, so marital misconduct - infidelity and abuse - is not considered in determining support.

In Wisconsin alimony influences the distribution of property, and it can become intricately involved in a divorce settlement. When spouses are unable to reach an agreement on this issue, the Circuit Court can order support on a case-by-case basis. The paying party may deduct support payments from federal taxes. The recipient must claim such payments as income.

Types of Alimony

In Wisconsin courts may order temporary, short- and long-term alimony. Temporary alimony is granted at the discretion of the court during the divorce proceedings and before the final decree. Short-term alimony may be granted to allow the receiving party time to gain necessary skills. Long-term, or permanent, alimony may be granted to a spouse who has significant needs, usually reserved for lengthy marriages.

Factors Considered by the Court

In Wisconsin, the court has broad discretion in what it finds to be a significant change in circumstances; however a job loss or a serious health problem qualifies as a substantial change.

The court has discretion and may consider any changed circumstances in adjusting the amount or duration of payments.

According to the Wisconsin Statutes - Sections: 767.26, 767.261, 767.29, the court considers:

  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age and health of the parties.
  • The property award;
  • The educational level of each party;
  • The earning capacity and the custodial arrangement if there are children;
  • 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 ramifications of the support order;
  • Any mutual agreements made by the parties;
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other;
  • Such other factors as the court may, in each individual case, determine to be relevant.

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