– from Philip D. in Trenton, WI

Question Details:

I am worried about all of the horror stories I hear about getting a divorce. My wife and I have been married for almost 20 years, and for the last 10 years she has basically supported me while I went to school for a medical degree. I am now in my third year of residency, which means, I don't have a lot of money and we still live in our small apartment. Given that we don't have much money or physical property, can she take what little we do have and everything I have that is mine because I have a medical degree?

Family Law Attorney Response:

It is actually a little more complicated than that. There are many things that the court will take into consideration before making a decision. Relevant factors include how much money you both have, your current income, your marital assets, whether or not you worked during your educational pursuit, among other important facts.

In the case of DeWitt v. DeWitt, 98 Wis. 2d 44, 296 N.W.2d 761 (Ct. App. 1980), it was initially found that because the wife had supported her husband throughout his years of college attendance in order to obtain a law degree she was entitled to the bulk of their marital assets and finances. However, this was overturned upon appeal. As far as maintenance is concerned, the primary objective of maintenance is to ensure a reasonable standard of life one has become accustomed to during the marriage, whereas the dissolution of a marriage may result in one party unjustly suffering a substantial decline in their previous standard of living.

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My advice would be to consult with an experienced family law attorney right away to discuss your circumstances in detail. He/she will be better able to guide through this difficult process and give you a better view of where you stand, as well as, possible outcomes.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Family Law Attorney

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