Wisconsin Divorce Laws Involving Money

by Elizabeth Rayne
In Wisconsin, the court is likely to divide property equally between a divorcing couple.

In Wisconsin, the court is likely to divide property equally between a divorcing couple.

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Getting a divorce in Wisconsin may have substantial impact on your income and financial obligations. Courts also have discretion to award child support and spousal maintenance. Wisconsin is a community property state, meaning the court generally distributes marital property and debt equally, but may modify the distribution depending on the circumstances of a given case.

Child Support

Wisconsin law differs from the majority of other states in how it calculates child support obligations. The state utilizes a flat percentage model, which calculates support by applying a percentage to the paying parent's gross income based on the number of children. For example, if the parents only have one child, the court will multiply the paying parent's income by 17 percent. Since the court assumes that the custodial parent is already providing financial support, only the noncustodial parent's income is considered. However, if the parents share custody, the court may split the support obligation based on how much time each parent spends with the child. After the court comes to an initial figure, it might adjust the amount based on the financial needs of the parents and children, such as educational or health care costs.

Spousal Maintenance

In Wisconsin, alimony is referred to as maintenance, which the court has discretion to award based on the facts of each case. The court might consider a number of factors, including the financial resources and income potential of each spouse, the health of each spouse and the length of the marriage. The court may also consider each spouse's contributions to the marriage, such as when one spouse worked and paid the bills while the other attended school. The factors upon which the court will place more value are highly dependent on the facts of the case and ultimately up to the judge. In most cases, the court will award temporary, or rehabilitative, maintenance, which is designed to rehabilitate the receiving spouse so that she can become self-supporting. In certain cases, typically in marriages of a long duration, the court might award permanent maintenance.

Property Division

In Wisconsin, the presumption is that all marital property, typically any property acquired during the marriage, will be divided 50/50, while separate property remains with the spouse who owns it. Separate property is any property a spouse had before the marriage or acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. However, the court can adjust the equal property distribution based on several factors, such as the length of the marriage, contributions of each party to the marriage, and what assets or resources each spouse brought into the marriage and has upon divorce.

Marital Debt

In addition to property, Wisconsin courts can also divide marital debt between divorcing spouses. Debt is divided similarly to property, in that only debt that was incurred during the marriage is subject to division. However, certain debt is excluded, including child support obligations from a prior relationship, debt that resulted from an obligation entered into before the marriage and, in some cases, money owed as a result of a lawsuit filed against one spouse. The court can divide debt equally or adjust the distribution based on the same factors used in property division.