That’s because Wisconsin, unlike some other states, has no set percentage guidelines to determine how spousal maintenance should be awarded. This gives trial courts a lot of leeway to determine how much to award, and it gives the divorcing parties a lot of motivation to try to influence those courts.
What Wisconsin Courts Consider
Under Wisconsin Statutes Case 767.26, courts must consider 10 factors when awarding spousal maintenance:
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, physical health and mental health of the divorcing parties;
- The education level of the divorcing parties — both at the time of marriage and the time of divorce;
- The earning ability of the party requesting maintenance (this includes education, skills, experience, length of absence from the job market and more);
- Whether the party seeking maintenance can earn an income that would support the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, and if so, how long it would take;
- The tax consequences for each party;
- Any prenuptial or marital agreements;
- If one party contributed to the other party’s education, training or earning power; and
- Anything else the court deems relevant.
No-Fault Divorce State
It’s also important to remember that while some states consider marital fault when awarding maintenance, Wisconsin does not. This means that marital misconduct, like abuse or infidelity, will have no bearing in your case.
Prenups Might Be Voided
In many states, a couple can enter into agreements that will limit or prevent spousal maintenance in the case of a divorce.
However, in Wisconsin, before courts enforce such agreements, they’re required to judge whether they’re fair at the time of divorce. If the courts decide that they’re not, then they can rule them invalid.
This is particularly important for prenups. Because prenups are executed before a marriage, circumstances have often changed by the time of a divorce, which can make the agreement seem unfair to one party.
In Wisconsin, you may also have to pay more maintenance than your income would usually dictate. This is because the courts sometimes impute income, basing your payments on how much they think you can earn rather than on how much you actually earn. The courts will look at you work history to determine if they think this is warranted.