– from Sue B. in Milwaukee, WI

Question Details:

My husband and I have been married for over a decade. After we had been together for about a year, he decided that he wanted to pursue his law degree. We both knew that it would mean that I would have to sacrifice a lot for this to work. I began waitressing full time, and even took on as many double shifts as possible. Over the years I moved up in the company and eventually ended up as the floor manager of the restaurant. In addition to being the sole provider for our family, I also did the majority of the household chores so he could study and focus on his schooling. He received his degree recently, but he has decided that our marriage is over. He decided, not me. We rent an apartment, and we don't have much as far as assets are concerned. Even though I am able to support myself, am I entitled to maintenance because of all the years of working so he could get this degree so we could enjoy a higher income together?

Family Law Attorney Response:

There are several factors that a court would consider in a case like this.

I would like to point out, however, that maintenance is granted to a spouse that is not able to support themselves. It is taken into consideration in cases such as these, the sacrifices made by the spouse in order to equip their significant other with the lifestyle and the tools they need in order to obtain a degree. It is considered how much work you put into maintaining a home.

You basically had two careers; one was in the restaurant industry, the second was being a homemaker.

In the case of Roberto v. Brown, 107 Wis. 2d 17, 318 N.W.2d 358 (1982), the supporting spouse was originally granted 70% of the proceeds of the marital assets, but granted no maintenance on the grounds that the spouse was able to support herself. This was found to be an error, and it was later overturned by a higher court. The extra 20% of the proceeds, which should have been 50%, was found to be an insufficient number and did not make up for the maintenance that was due.

My advice would be to speak with a family law attorney immediately to discuss your options and to find the best course of action in regards to the specifics of your case.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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