Family, Criminal & Children's Court Attorneys Since 1991

Can you retire if you’re paying alimony?

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2024 | Spousal Support |

Under Wisconsin law, a number of factors are considered in determining how much alimony (or spousal maintenance, as it’s referred to) one spouse needs to pay the other – if any – and for how long, following a divorce. The terms of such orders depend on things like how long the marriage lasted, the age and health of both spouses and each one’s earning capacity – just to name a few. Of course, spouses can work out their own agreement, which must then be approved by the court.

Circumstances can change in the years following divorce that warrant modifications to an original order. One of these is the retirement of the person who is paying spousal maintenance. A common concern of many spouses who are ordered to pay alimony – particularly if their anticipated retirement years aren’t far away – is whether they can retire if there’s still a maintenance order in place. If so, are they still required to continue paying?

Certainly, people aren’t expected to continue working until they drop if they have an obligation to pay alimony. If you’re at a reasonable retirement age for your occupation, you can seek a modification to your spousal maintenance order.

What will a court consider?

It’s best to address this concern before you make plans to quit your job. In addition to whether the retirement seems reasonable (for example, are you closer to 65 than 45?), a judge will likely look at things like:

  • Your other sources of income (like part-time work, benefits, IRA distributions, investment income and more)
  • Your ex-spouse’s sources of income (including Social Security or disability benefits, if applicable)
  • Whether your spouse has had sufficient time to increase their earning potential enough to support themselves

As noted, if you’re planning to stop working or at least retire from full-time work and take freelance work to stay “in the game,” as it were, or if you’re reaching mandatory retirement age for your profession (which is rare these days), it’s wise to build your case for modifying or even eliminating your alimony obligations. If you and your former spouse are on good terms, it can help to discuss it with them so they aren’t blindsided. However, you’ll still need court approval, so it’s important to be ready. Getting legal guidance sooner rather than later can help.