Wisconsin Statutes allow the court discretion to order maintenance—often also referred to as alimony or spousal support—in cases for annulment, divorce or legal separation. The statutes do not define a strict formula for courts to rely upon as to when maintenance should be ordered. There are, however, factors for the court to consider which are outline below and included in Wis. Stat. 767.56(1c).

Courts may grant maintenance for a limited or indefinite period after considering:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The division of property made under stat. 767.61.
  • The educational level of each party at the time of the marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
  • The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, if the repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties.
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other.
  • Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determining to be relevant.

While there are many factors for the court to consider, the general theme and purpose of maintenance is allowing the party seeking maintenance to continue a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage. Courts will often rely upon equity and fairness when determining the appropriateness of maintenance. Regardless of the reasons maintenance is ordered, if the court does not limit the length of time for maintenance, it shall end upon the death of either party.