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If you have already obtained a dissolution of marriage, or divorce, in Wisconsin and were ordered to pay alimony, you may wonder how to change that once certain circumstances arise. In this article, we discuss how to modify alimony, or spousal support, in Wisconsin, including:

  • Which spouse can seek modification of alimony in Wisconsin?
  • Under what circumstances can I modify alimony in Wisconsin?
  • How to request a modification of alimony in Wisconsin
  • How can I increase alimony in Wisconsin?

During a divorce proceeding in Wisconsin, spousal support, also known as alimony, may be appropriate and ordered to be paid by one spouse to the other for a period of time. Spousal support may be ordered if one of the parties has a substantial need for support, or if there is a significant difference in the income, assets or earning capacity of the parties. There are several factors that may influence this decision, including, but not limited to the length of the marriage, the financial positions of each party at the time of divorce, the employability of each spouse, and the contributions of each spouse during the marriage, including non financial contributions made by a spouse such as child rearing.  

Spousal support can be ordered for a certain number of years or until a particular circumstance occurs (such as, one party who was unemployed at the time of divorce gets a job). In very rare circumstances, such as in the case of a very long marriage, alimony may be ordered indefinitely. Over time, after the divorce has been finalized, however, the circumstances that existed at the time of divorce may change. If this happens, a modification, perhaps even a termination of spousal support payments may be appropriate.  

Which spouse can seek modification of alimony in Wisconsin?

Either spouse is entitled to ask the court to modify alimony in Wisconsin. Thus, the spouse making alimony payments or the spouse receiving payments may petition the court for this purpose. However, the Court will only do so under specific circumstances.

Under what circumstances can I modify alimony in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin family law courts will not modify orders to pay alimony (or spousal support) unless the petitioning party can demonstrate a financial change. However, they will not modify an Order for just any change. In order to modify, there must have been a “substantial change in the circumstances” that existed at the time of the original order. Common examples of changes in circumstances that the Court will consider substantial enough to modify an Order include a major change in income, such as from the loss of a job or a big promotion, or an increase in the cost of living. This last example is applied when the receiving spouse moves in with a romantic partner. If you have questions regarding how alimony is calculated in Wisconsin read our article How is Alimony Calculated in Wisconsin?

How to request a modification of alimony in Wisconsin

The first step in obtaining a modification of your spousal support order is to file a Petition with the family law court, requesting a modification or termination of alimony. This Petition must detail the specific change in circumstances that necessitates a change to the divorce decree order. Any supporting evidence should also be submitted with the Petition. The Petition, along with Notice of the proceeding will need to be served on the spouse not making the request.  

After the Court reviews the Petition, they will likely set the case for a hearing. At the hearing, the spouse not asking for the modification will get an opportunity to be heard by the judge. If they contest the modification, this is their opportunity to tell the judge why. The court will use many of the same factors used to determine original alimony in determining whether the modification is appropriate, and if so, to determine the new amount.  

How can I increase alimony in Wisconsin?

While you may not be able to get an increase in the monthly amount of alimony, you may be able to increase the duration of alimony, and receive payments for a longer time. This also requires that you demonstrate a financial increase. A common example of when this may occur is when the party making payments files for bankruptcy. This will not discharge the responsibility to pay alimony (or child support). The monthly amount may not be increased, but duration can be extended indefinitely.  

Ultimately, the details of your particular divorce decree will control your options post-divorce. The moral of the story is, when financial changes occur post-divorce, make sure you know your rights and responsibilities. If you would like to speak with an experienced divorce attorney about your options today, call our office at (630) 324-6666 or schedule a consultation.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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