Spousal support in the state of Wisconsin is called "maintenance,” and is comparable to what is called “alimony,” in other states. It refers to the payments that one ex-spouse makes to the other after a divorce or legal separation action has been completed. Unlike child support, there is no exact formula to determine if maintenance is appropriate or how much, if any, maintenance should be awarded.
Unfortunately, there is no general rule that determines when maintenance is appropriate. The amount and duration of maintenance lies in the discretion of the court, after analyzing a host of statutory factors. For that reason, the awarding of maintenance is one of the most difficult outcomes to predict in the context of a divorce.
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The court will examine the parties' situation in light of ten statutory factors, the first of which is length of marriage. After considering the factors, the court will decide if maintenance is appropriate and, if so, how long the award of maintenance should last and how much maintenance is appropriate. An award of maintenance may be modified if the parties' circumstances substantially change.
Other factors that are taken into account when a judge makes a decision about maintenance include:
Sometimes parties agree on an alternative to maintenance in which one spouse pays guaranteed payments to the other spouse for a limited period of time. These payments are deductible to the payer and taxable to the recipient, if the payments meet the IRS definition of maintenance. Payments like this are commonly referred to as Section 71 payments in reference to Section 71 of the Internal Revenue Code, which allows for their deductibility.
This alternative offers both advantages and disadvantages; our attorneys can help you determine if this option is available to you and will meet your needs.
Our experienced Madison divorce lawyers at Balisle Family Law Legal Counsel, S.C. are well-versed in Wisconsin maintenance case law. Whether through negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or litigation, our family lawyers are here to help you determine how best to preserve your financial security.
Section 71 payments are provided from spouse to the other, as another way to provide maintenance. These payments are guaranteed to the receiving spouse, and the amount of length of time to make payments cannot be modified. The income received from Section 71 payments are considered taxable income, and are deductible for the paying spouse.
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