There is no entitlement or guarantee to maintenance after a divorce. A spouse’s ability to receive maintenance (otherwise known as alimony) is based on several factors including the length of marriage, the spouses’ health, education, earnings and earning ability, the division of property, and contributions (financial, childcare, homemaking, etc.) to the marriage. If maintenance is awarded, it is often limited in time and amount. In a long-term marriage, the starting point may be an equal division of both spouses’ incomes. As the length of the marriage and income inequality decreases, maintenance may also decrease in amount and length. In my experience as a divorce attorney in the Dane, Sauk, and Columbia county areas, the trend is toward limiting maintenance. The ultimate goal is to ensure that both parties can support themselves after the marriage, and that the maintenance payments are fair to both parties. Unmarried parents should note that maintenance is only available after a marriage.
The judge has wide discretion to order the length and amount of maintenance payments. The judge is guided by the factors set out in Wisconsin law, but the decision is not an exact science. The demeanor and credibility of the parties, and the presentation of the argument also affects the judge. Therefore, whether you are the payor or recipient, it is important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer who can present your position to the judge and achieve your desired result.