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How is spousal maintenance decided?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2021 | Spousal Support |

Alimony, sometimes referred to as maintenance, is one of the more misunderstood parts of a Wisconsin divorce. In most cases, it is not a permanent right or obligation. Instead, it depends on a number of factors. One key question is how long it lasts.

Maintenance allows one spouse time to increase their earning capacity

The court has the discretion to award spousal maintenance for a limited or indefinite period of time. The most important factor will be the relative income and earning ability of the two spouses. Alimony could be ordered because the recipient needs time to increase their earning capacity, perhaps because they were home with the children and now need to work. In that case, they could receive maintenance for a period of years, so long as they are gaining a new job skill to increase their earnings. In other cases, they may never be able to earn more, and the court could order permanent maintenance. This way, they could pay their bills and maintain some of their previous standard of living.

Other factors a court examines

In addition to earning capacity, a court could look at the length of the marriage and the contribution that the recipient made to the other’s higher earning capacity. For example, if they raised the children or worked when the other spouse was in school, they have a stronger claim to maintenance. The law lists 11 total factors, and the court has discretion on which ones they look at and how they are weighted.

Maintenance issues can be hotly contested in a divorce. In the best-case scenario, the parties can reach an agreement with the help of their respective attorneys rather than having a judge make the decision.