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When Can I Request a Modification to My Spousal Maintenance Order?

 Posted on January 29, 2021 in Family Law

Muskego divorce attorney spousal maintenance

In many marriages, it is not uncommon to have some degree of inequality when it comes to the education, career, or income between the spouses. In many households, one spouse is considered the “breadwinner” while the other spouse’s income is considered supplementary. When you get divorced, those two incomes are no longer combined and both spouses must live off their own incomes. However, this is not always fair to both spouses, which is where spousal support comes in. Spousal maintenance payments can be awarded to a spouse if the couple agrees upon an amount or if the judge deems maintenance to be necessary. However, the amount of maintenance that is originally ordered is not always the correct amount that is needed over time. In some cases, you may be able to ask for a modification to your spousal maintenance order.

Awarding Spousal Maintenance Payments

When a couple gets a divorce in Wisconsin, they have the option to agree on a spousal maintenance amount. Spousal maintenance is not a guarantee in any divorce, though the judge will examine a variety of factors when deciding if maintenance is necessary, including:

  • The length of the marriage

  • The earning capacity of the spouse seeking the maintenance payments

  • The ability of the spouse seeking maintenance payments to gain necessary education, training, skills and/or experience to support themselves

  • Any custodial responsibilities the spouse seeking maintenance has that might prevent him or her from maintaining sustainable employment

  • Any other factor deemed to be relevant

Determining if a “Substantial Change in Circumstances” Has Taken Place

Once a spousal maintenance order has been entered by a judge, the spouse who has been ordered to pay such maintenance will be required to do so or will face consequences. Maintenance orders are not set in stone, though. There are situations in which either spouse can request a modification to the support order, but only under certain circumstances. A judge will not modify a maintenance order simply because a spouse does not want to pay anymore -- you will have to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that has made it so that the current maintenance order is no longer appropriate. According to Wisconsin law, a change in circumstances includes, but is not limited to:

  • An increase or decrease in income: If you experience a significant decrease in your income, perhaps from losing a job or a pay cut, you can petition the court for a lower maintenance amount.

  • A change in earning capacity: If you were to experience a long-term reduction in the amount of money that you are able to earn, this would likely constitute a review of your spousal maintenance orders.

  • Your ex-spouse gets remarried: In the state of Wisconsin, if your former spouse gets remarried to another person, you no longer have the legal obligation to pay maintenance. Petitioning the court to get rid of maintenance payments would likely eliminate the payments altogether. 

Speak to Our Waukesha County Spousal Maintenance Lawyers Today

In many divorce cases, spousal maintenance is crucial to the well-being of the entire family. If you are getting a divorce, you should speak to a Brookfield spousal maintenance attorney to discuss your case and determine if this type of financial support order is an option for you. Contact the team at Bucher, Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP, today to schedule a free consultation by calling our office at 262-232-6699.




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