The modification of spousal maintenance is an issue that arises frequently after a divorce. In some cases, a party may not be satisfied with the original maintenance award issued by the court and may try to have it changed after the requisite period of time has passed. In other instances, circumstances may change for one or both parties, causing a party to file for the modification of an award. Although many modifications are warranted, courts do not take such requests lightly and will require parties to prove that there is a significant basis for changing a maintenance award. A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin looks at both acceptable and unacceptable bases for modification.
When a couple divorces and reaches an agreement on issues such as child support and spousal maintenance, the terms of that agreement are considered final. They can only be changed through a petition to the court arguing that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a change in financial arrangements. What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances is largely up to the discretion of the court considering the case, and many different factors may be considered. A recent Wisconsin case looks at whether changes in income by one or both parties can justify a change in child support amounts.
When dealing with a divorce in Wisconsin, courts must give careful consideration to the division of existing property, assets, and debts that a couple may have, as well as how to divide future obligations and income, if necessary. While Wisconsin courts typically start from the presumption that marital property should be divided equally between two spouses, such arrangements can be modified when it would be in the interest of the courts and the couple to do so. A recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals case considered and applied a creative approach for resolving spousal maintenance issues between a couple by instead offering one spouse an additional lump sum property award.