How to Keep up with Alimony Payments After a Job Loss

We would have to look at your divorce papers to know the specifics, but in general, Wisconsin law[1] allows modifications in spousal support payments in cases of a substantial change in circumstances — for example, the loss of the paying spouse's job or a decline in income-making potential.

Spousal support payments, sometimes called maintenance or alimony, are generally agreed upon in advance and included in a divorce decree. A thoughtful divorce attorney will also include contingencies in the case of job or income changes.

It's important to note, however, that your overall obligation generally won't change. Let's say, for example, that you were ordered to make monthly payments of $500 over the course of five years. A judge may defer your payments during a period of unemployment, but you would be required to make up the difference when you regain work.

In other words, you may be granted a deferment, but not forbearance.

Judges have wide discretion in determining spousal support. Having an experienced divorce attorney to serve as your advocate is essential. If you're having trouble making spousal support payments or foresee a future change in your earnings, give us a call or fill out our case evaluation form.

Can Severance Payments Be Used for Maintenance Payments?

The person who is owed maintenance cannot personally tap into the severance payments. However, severance can be used to compensate for maintenance, but this is not true for every case. Severance payments must be viewed on a case-by-case analysis.

In the case Fessler v. Fessler 147 Wis.2d 1, 432 N.W.2d 103 (Ct. App. 1988)[2], the court of appeals reviewed the definition of severance pay and said this type of pay is given to an employee only when his employment status with the employer is severed. However, this payment does not mean it can be used as a form of maintenance.

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