Terese J. Singer

Modification of Spousal Maintenance

Divorce Lawyers Assisting Residents of Milwaukee and Surrounding Communities

During a divorce, the court and the parties often go to great lengths to determine the appropriate spousal maintenance that should be paid by one spouse to the other. In Wisconsin, this initial determination relies on many different factors, including the history of the marriage, the financial positions of the parties, and the nonmonetary benefits that one spouse may have contributed to the marriage. Over time, however, some of these factors may change, or circumstances may drastically reverse. When this happens, a modification or even termination of spousal maintenance may be appropriate. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee spousal maintenance attorneys can assist you in making a claim for a modification of your maintenance payments or defend against a modification sought by your ex-spouse.

The Modification Standard

Spousal maintenance (or alimony) in Wisconsin is usually provided for a defined period of time. In rare situations, such as with an exceptionally long marriage, spousal maintenance can be indefinite. At any point in time during that period, either spouse may request a modification of spousal maintenance if the circumstances warrant it.

Under Wisconsin law, a modification of spousal maintenance is allowed when there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” As with the similar standard for a modification of child support, this means that one party cannot simply request a modification because they believe that they need more money. Instead, the spouse must show that something significant has changed in their life. For the paying spouse, this might mean a loss of a job or a recent disability that makes the current maintenance payments impossible. For the spouse receiving payments, additional money may be needed because of medical issues with children or because the receiving spouse is no longer able to work, among other situations.

In certain circumstances, spousal maintenance can also be terminated entirely. This occurs when one spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries or moves in with another individual, ending the need for maintenance payments.

How To Request a Modification

Spousal maintenance is typically set out in an order by the court in a divorce. Thus, in order to have that maintenance modified, the requesting spouse will need to go before the court and request a new order. A party seeking a modification will need to file a petition for modification with the court, detailing the specific change in circumstances that has occurred. Evidence supporting a claim for a modification of spousal maintenance should also be provided. For instance, if an individual has recently been declared disabled, proof of the disability will be necessary.

After reviewing the petition, the court will likely schedule a hearing to allow both parties to make arguments regarding the request for modification. This will also allow the court to receive additional information and evidence on which kind of modification will be reasonable. If the court decides that a modification is warranted, it will use many of the same factors considered in the original spousal maintenance order to determine the new amount – things like current income, likelihood for future income, and even the tax implications of the modification in spousal income.

If you are considering requesting a modification of spousal maintenance in your divorce case, you must take a careful look at the basis for your request. If you feel that you are entitled to a higher standard of living or simply wish to have more flexibility to afford the things that you want, this likely will not be enough for a court to grant you a modification. However, if you have had a significant change in job circumstances, face new medical or health issues, or have experienced a significant decline in your earning potential, these issues may warrant consideration of a modification by the court.

Discuss Your Needs with a Knowledgeable Milwaukee Attorney

At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our family law attorneys can help you take a closer look at your spousal maintenance, the circumstances behind a request for a modification, and the likely outcome of a request in a Wisconsin court. Contact our office for more information at (414) 271-6400 or online. We represent people in Milwaukee, Port Washington, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other areas of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.

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