In a divorce action, one (1) party may request the other party to pay maintenance, which is spousal support. Maintenance used to be called alimony in the State of Wisconsin. When making a decision about whether to award a spouse maintenance, the Court shall consider the factors detailed in Wisconsin Statute § 767.56. There is no formula to determine what amount of maintenance to order. The Court will consider whether the party requesting maintenance actually needs maintenance, and whether the other party has the ability to pay maintenance. Fairness is the overall consideration in determining a maintenance award and income difference alone is not sufficient to warrant an award of maintenance.
If the Court finds that an award of maintenance is appropriate, the Court will then determine the duration of the maintenance award. Maintenance can be for a fixed term or for an indefinite period of time, depending on the length of the marriage. Typically, in shorter marriages the maintenance award will be for one-half the length of the marriage, while longer term marriages are more likely to be an indefinite period of time. Maintenance terminates on the death of either party, or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance. Either party may also seek to modify maintenance by filing a motion with the Court, but the party seeking the modification must show that there has been a substantial change in financial circumstances since the entry of the last order to warrant a modification. Parties in a divorce action may also agree to waive their right to receive maintenance from the other, and, if a party waives maintenance, this waiver is permanent. A Court may not order an award of maintenance at a later date.
Parents have a legal obligation to support a child until the child turns eighteen (18) years old, or nineteen (19) years old if the child is still in high school or taking courses to obtain the equivalent of a high school diploma.
The Court will use one (1) of two (2) formulas when determining a parent’s child support obligation. If one (1) parent has primary physical placement, the parent who has secondary physical placement will pay the primary parent a percentage of his/her gross income for support of the minor child. The percentage a parent pays will vary depending on the number of children. Pursuant to statues, a parent’s child support obligation will be 17% of their gross income for one (1) child, 25% for two (2) children, 29% for three (3) children, 31% for four (4) children, and 34% for five (5) or more children.
The second formula for calculation child support applies if the parties have shared or equal physical placement. A parent has shared physical placement if the parent has placement of the child for more than twenty-five (25) percentage of the time. Placement is calculated by the number of overnights a parent has the child. In an equal shared physical placement schedule, both parents have placement of the child fifty (50) percent of the time. When calculating child support in a shared or equal physical placement schedule, the Court will use a formula that compares both parties income and the percentage of time each parent has placement of the child. The less placement a parent has, the high the parent’s child support obligation.
A party or the child support agency may request a modification of a child support order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the last support order. If it has been thirty-three (33) months since the entry of the last child support order, there is a presumption that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A party’s child support obligation will remain the same unless the party files a motion with the Court or the parties enter into a stipulation to modify child support.