Wisconsin Alimony Laws and Guidelines: All About Spousal Maintenance in “WI”

The alimony laws governing spousal maintenance in Wisconsin is different from what is obtainable in other states. Read further to grasp the peculiarity of the WI alimony law.

All 50 states in America are alimony states, meaning states that have enacted laws permitting a spouse who cannot work full time or with a lower income to request payments from the other spouse to support themselves after a divorce.

What is Alimony?

Also referred to as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance” in America’s Dairyland, alimony is the series of payments made by one spouse (the payor spouse) to another (the supported or payee spouse) after the divorce.

Before the alimony payments commence, there has to be a written order or agreement which requires the payor to support the payee with a stipulated amount of money.

This agreement eliminates any disputes in the future about why the payment was made or when it’s not made.

Type of Alimony Laws Practiced in WI

types of alimony

Types of alimony in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, there are four different types of alimony that can be ordered. The different sorts are determined by why alimony is given and how it is paid. Unless it is interim alimony for the duration of the divorce, alimony commences at the end of the divorce.

Limited-term Spousal Maintenance in Wisconsin

Limited-term support (also known as rehabilitative support) is intended for circumstances when one spouse is capable of supporting themselves after the divorce but requires time and financial assistance to obtain the education or skills needed to find a job that will offer financial freedom.

Limited-term support is typical in circumstances where one spouse left a job to nurture the couple’s children and now requires help and time to reintegrate into the workforce following the divorce.

Indefinite Spousal Maintenance in WI

Indefinite spousal maintenance is particularly frequent in long-term marriages whereby a spouse’s unemployment or old age makes finding work tough.

The goal of indefinite support is to keep the dependent spouse financially stable, regardless of age, unemployment, or health difficulties that impede a full-time job.

Compensatory Alimony in Wisconsin

This sort of alimony is awarded when one spouse puts their own career on hold in order to help the other spouse advance theirs, and as a result, they must be reimbursed for their efforts. This sort of alimony is quite uncommon.

Lifestyle Maintenance in WI

The most prevalent type of maintenance awarded by Wisconsin courts is this type of alimony. This sort of maintenance is paid so that the partner can continue to live the lifestyle they had while married. Long-term marriages are more likely to receive this distinction than short-term marriages.

Who Pays Alimony in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin alimony law, the spouse that makes most of the money will share that income with the other spouse. The idea behind who pays for alimony is to considerably level up the living standard of the dependent spouse to what it was while the marriage was on.

Regarding the sex that pays, alimony in America’s Dairyland is gender-neutral, meaning either spouse can request maintenance from the other. As long as the alimony can be provided to the requesting spouse, then it will most likely be granted.

So a husband can receive alimony from a wife in Wisconsin if the above conditions are met.

How Long Does Spousal Maintenance Last in WI?

How Long To Pay Alimony

The judge will decide how long alimony payment should last in Wisconsin

The duration to pay alimony in Wisconsin can differ depending on the individual judge and circumstances. However, you should expect to pay spousal support for a duration of 80-70% of the length of the marriage lasted. So assuming you were married for 10 years, the spousal maintenance duration will most likely be between 6 to 7 years.

As provided by the alimony laws of WI, rehabilitative and permanent support stops if either spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries.

How to Collect Spousal Maintenance Arrears in Wisconsin

When it comes to collecting spousal support in Wisconsin, you have a few choices if your ex-spouse has failed to make alimony payments as ordered by the court. Debts for spousal support are frequently given priority among debtors under US law.

Factors That Influence Alimony in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has no set criterion or procedure for determining how much alimony should be paid or for how long it should be paid. Instead, the court weighs a variety of variables, including the marriage, each spouse’s standing, and the property to be shared.

However, before determining the final amounts for support, in addition to the three key factors above, the courts in WI will consider other factors like:

  • earning capacity of each spouse.
  • the ability of the paying spouse to pay, considering assets, the standard of living, earning capacity, as well as earned and unearned income.
  • the extent of contribution the supported spouse gave to the other’s educational pursuit or professional license during the marriage
  • how long the marriage lasted
  • the needs of each spouse
  • the assets and debts of each spouse including separate property
  • each party’s tax consequences
  • the ability of the supported spouse to gain employment without interfering with their children’s care
  • each spouse’s health and age
  • each party’s balance of hardships
  • whether there is a documented history of domestic violence against the children or either party
  • will the dependent spouse be self-supporting within a reasonable period
  • any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse
  • any other factors which the court wishes to consider

This is the main measure the court uses to determine the amount to be paid in America’s Dairyland. The principle behind the standard of living of the marriage is that after the marriage breakup, both spouses should continue living within the same standard they lived while the marriage lasted.

Wisconsin law makes it illegal for a judge to consider culpability when awarding spousal maintenance (Dixon v. Dixon, 107 Wis. 2d 492, 319 N.W.2d 846.)

Family Support in Wisconsin

Child support will almost certainly be part of the divorce proceedings if the separating spouse has young children. The judge may order “family support” if a partner wants spousal maintenance and is simultaneously eligible for child support as a custodial parent.

Maintenance and child support are combined into one payment called family support. Judges must observe the legislation for each form of assistance and compute the two responsibilities individually before making a family support award. (Wis. Stat. § 767.531.)

How Alimony is Calculated in WI

How Alimony is Calculated

How Alimony is Calculated in Wisconsin

The amount to be paid as spousal maintenance in Wisconsin is calculated after considering the above-stated factors. Whichever option is adopted it is reflected in the Alimony Calculator

But to be explicit about how to calculate spousal support in WI, you may need to consult your spousal support attorney.

>>> Wisconsin Spousal Support Calculator

Importance of Using a Skilled Wisconsin Alimony Attorney

If you’re getting a divorce in Wisconsin and need to negotiate or re-negotiate spousal support, you’ve definitely got a lot of questions and want to seek competent legal guidance. Though state Supreme Courts have supported lifetime spousal support,
your circumstances may or may not fulfill the requirements. WI courts may judge your case differently based on the merits of you and your previous spouse. There are so many variables to consider.

If you want to get spousal support for the rest of your life or if you want to fight against it in Wisconsin, an expert divorce lawyer can help. Depending on the objective and the desire of the adversary attorney to bargain in good faith, you’ll need attorneys that are
both empathetic and strong.

For the convenience of our members, we have an up-to-date directory of WI divorce and spousal support attorneys who can help with a variety of issues. For legal advice and
representation on spousal support that is powerful and well-informed.

Click Here to Get our Free Iowa Alimony recommendation.

FAQ About Wisconsin Alimony Laws

Here are Frequently Asked Questions about spousal maintenance laws in WI:

Can a Husband get Alimony in WI?

Yes. In Wisconsin, alimony payment is gender-neutral, meaning the sex that pays or receives is not the main determinant, but other factors as stated above. For details click here.

Who Qualifies for Alimony in Wisconsin?

Just as either spouse can pay or receive, the party that qualifies to receive spousal support is the dependent party while the marriage lasted. This means that in WI, the spouse that had lesser or no income when the marriage was on is also the one qualified to receive alimony. Click here for details

How Long do you have to be Married to get Alimony in WI?

To understand how long alimony lasts in Wisconsin, you have to take into consideration how long the marriage lasted.

However, bear in mind that there is no limit to the duration you can pay or receive alimony for marriages that lasted 10-20 years or more. Any marriage that lasted below 20 years will not pay nor receive alimony that exceeds 50% of the duration of the marriage.

Is Alimony Tax Deductible in Wisconsin?

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which altered the link between alimony and taxes dramatically in Wisconsin and all over the US, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible for the payer and are no longer recognized as income for the recipient spouse as of January 1, 2019.

Is Alimony Mandatory in America’s Dairyland?

Alimony is mandatory in Wisconsin as long as one of the spouses earns or owns assets that can be relied upon to support the other spouse after the marriage breaks down.

Can Alimony be increased in Wisconsin?

Alimony amount or duration can be increased or decreased due to changes in the financial circumstances of the parties in different ways, including:

  • an increase or decrease in the income of the alimony recipient
  • if it’s determined that the original alimony awarded is inadequate
  •  loss to the alimony recipient’s financial assets
  • an increase in the justified expenses of the alimony recipient
  • when the financial condition of the receiving spouse fails to improve as originally expected

Can you go to Jail for Not Paying Spousal Maintenance in WI?

Technically, you will not be jailed for not paying alimony in Wisconsin. While there are varying consequences for not paying alimony, you can still end up in jail as a result. Here is how.

If it’s a Wisconsin court-ordered spousal support that you refuse to pay, it means you are in violation of a court order meaning you can be prosecuted for being in contempt of court if contempt proceedings are brought up against you. This could attract a jail term in WI}.

How to Modify Spousal Support in Wisconsin

How to Avoid spousal support

How to Avoid spousal maintenance in Wisconsin

When necessary, Wisconsin law allows for a spousal support modification. When it comes to alimony, courts in WI usually try to do their best to create judgments that are fair and effective in the long run. Nevertheless, conditions change over time, and these changes may compel a revision or modification of the initial order.

When filing for a spousal support modification in Wisconsin, keep in mind that the courts will only entertain the motion if there has been a significant and long-term change in circumstances. A brief problem is unlikely to be significant enough to warrant a revision in the initial alimony ruling. Likewise, dissatisfaction with the support order is not a valid reason for a revision in WI.

The following are some of the most common reasons for requesting an alimony modification in Wisconsin:

  • Retirement
  • Relocation
  • Changes in income or employment
  • Birth of a new child
  • Health changes, including disability
  • A new dependent

How to Avoid or Terminate Spousal Maintenance in WI

In America’s Dairyland, the spouse paying the alimony can successfully avoid or stop the alimony payment if he/she is able to prove any or all of the following points:

  • death or remarriage of either spouse terminated Indefinite Maintenance (Wis. Stat. § 767.59.)
  • the spouse proves that he has no source of income
  • the spouse remarries and has to take care of the new spouse however, he/she will continue paying the child support for children if any
  • if the spouse is disabled and unable to earn a living

Alimony Laws in all 50 States

A Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontana
NebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota
P-S  PennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
T-U  TennesseeTexasUtah
V-W  VermontVirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.