Divorce is a common occurrence, which is made easier because of no-fault dissolution of marriage. Couples do not need specific grounds to terminate their marriage if the union is irretrievably broken. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, there were 746,971 divorces in the United States in 2019, the last year of data available. Divorcing couples must make many decisions when they end their union and sort through a number of issues including spousal support. Spousal maintenance or support is also commonly called alimony.
What is Spousal Support?
Spousal maintenance is the payment of money from one spouse to another as part of a divorce order. Support is designed to assist one person with their ongoing living requirements as they transition from a marriage. Spousal support may be temporary or permanent. Typically, support is to provide money until a spouse is able to return to the workplace after the marriage ends. Alimony is most commonly a temporary payment that will end after a specific length of time. This gives the party time to train for a job and find employment to become financially self-sufficient. Alimony is not part of every divorce and was more common in decades past when only one person in the household worked.
Factors that Determine Spousal Maintenance
The judge in a divorce case generally has latitude to determine spousal support in Wisconsin. There are a number of factors that the judge uses to decide alimony. Some of these factors include:
- Length of the marriage
- Ages of each spouse
- Health of each party
- Earning capability of partner seeking support
- Education level of each spouse
- Distribution of assets
- Tax issues
Generally, the purpose of spousal maintenance is to provide financial help to a partner who would otherwise suffer a loss of their typical conditions of living if they are no longer married. The judge will review the ability of a spouse to obtain gainful employment as well as other factors such as raising minor children. Spousal support is more likely to be awarded in situations in which one spouse was the primary breadwinner outside the home while the other spouse stayed home with the children. Each case is different and has a unique set of circumstances, so it is best to discuss the matter with your divorce attorney to determine how to proceed.
How is Spousal Support Paid?
Spousal maintenance may be temporary or permanent. With permanent support, the person will continue to receive payments indefinitely. Temporary maintenance will end after a predetermined length of time. This time period allows the person receiving the payments to seek education and find a job. In some cases, the court may award support until a parent is able to return to work once the children are ready to attend school. Permanent maintenance is most often awarded when a spouse is unable to work due to age or health considerations. Support is generally paid on a monthly basis, although it may be paid in a lump sum.
Spousal maintenance can be a source of dispute in a divorce settlement and can be complex, especially during the pandemic. To learn more about alimony and to get answers to questions about your specific case, contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. by phone at (608) 784-8310 or by email.