Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, is a common issue addressed in divorce cases. The purpose of spousal support is to bridge the gap between divorcing spouses and enable the lower-earning spouse to maintain a similar standard of living after divorce.

In Wisconsin, spousal support payments are determined on a case-by-case basis by considering various factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and earning capacity, the age and health of both parties, the division of property, and whether there were any agreements between the spouses that specified whether spousal support would be paid.

If the court determines that spousal support should be paid, a couple’s divorce decree will specify the amount and duration of these payments. However, changes may occur in the couple’s lives in the years following their divorce, including the remarriage of either party. When either the paying spouse or the recipient spouse gets remarried, they will need to determine how this may affect spousal support payments. An attorney with experience in family law matters can provide guidance in these situations, ensuring that issues related to spousal support will be addressed correctly.

Effect of Remarriage on the Paying Spouse

When a spouse who is paying spousal support gets remarried, this will not automatically terminate their obligation to pay ongoing support. However, it may provide grounds for modifying or terminating the existing order, since it will likely be considered a substantial change in circumstances.

A family court judge may look at several different factors when determining whether remarriage may allow for spousal support to be modified. These factors may include:

  • The duration of maintenance that was ordered at the time of divorce and the amount of time remaining on the original spousal support order.

  • The financial impact of the payor’s remarriage, including changes to their cost of living.

  • Evidence indicating that the recipient ex-spouse no longer requires financial assistance due to their ability to support themselves.

If these factors demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that may affect spousal support payments, the payor spouse may petition the court and request a modification. To successfully receive a modification, a spouse will need to provide evidence demonstrating the changed circumstances. A court hearing will be held, and spousal support may be recalculated based on the incomes that both parties currently earn, their ongoing expenses, and other factors.

Effect of Remarriage on the Recipient Spouse

For the spouse receiving spousal support, remarriage can have a direct impact on their right to continued financial assistance. In Wisconsin, the law states that a spousal support order will be vacated upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse. A recipient of spousal support is required to notify their ex-spouse and the court within 10 days after they get married. The court will terminate the spousal support order, and the payor spouse will no longer be required to make ongoing payments.

It is important to note that cohabitation does not necessarily have the same effect as marriage when it comes to modifying or terminating spousal support. If an ex-spouse begins living with someone or enters into a domestic partnership without getting married, the payor ex-spouse may request a modification, but they may need to demonstrate that the recipient of spousal support has begun to live in the same home and share expenses with their new partner.