Law Gone Wrong: Wisconsin’s Spousal Maintenance Statute

This is the fourth post in an occasional series entitled “Law Gone Wrong.”  The editors of the Faculty Blog invited Law School faculty to share their thoughts on misguided statutes, disastrous judicial decisions, and other examples where the law has gone wrong (and needs to be nudged back on course).  Today’s contribution is from Professor Judith G.  McMullen.

The current Wisconsin statute governing spousal maintenance, §767.56, is an undoubtedly well-meaning legislative attempt to give broad discretion to judges who must make difficult decisions about the division of financial assets at the time of a divorce.  I believe, however, that the breathtakingly broad discretion granted under the statute is a mistake.  

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is the payment by one ex-spouse for the support of the other ex-spouse.  Although media accounts of celebrities like Tiger Woods may leave the impression that maintenance payments are commonplace (not to mention large), in fact only a small percentage of divorce judgments include awards of spousal maintenance.  Divorcing couples may bargain for and agree to different maintenance outcomes, and those agreements are generally incorporated into their divorce judgments and subsequently enforced.  If the parties do not agree, however, §767.56 says that the court “may grant an order requiring maintenance payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time” upon consideration of the factors listed in the statute.

The list of factors that the judge must consider is infinitely broad, and includes the length of the marriage, the health of the parties, the educational levels of the parties, the job experience, job history, and job prospects of the parties, as well as any contributions each might have made to the increased earning power of the other party.   The court is further directed to consider “the feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.”  Finally, the court must consider “[s]uch other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant.”  In other words, a judge can consider virtually anything.

Allowing judges to consider each case on its own merits seems at first like an ideal way to achieve fair resolutions in the infinite variety of divorce cases that are filed in this state.  Judges are highly educated after all, and the vast majority of judges are dedicated to trying to achieve justice in the many cases that come before them.  Even so, I find the super-broad discretion of § 767.56 to be troubling.

Here’s the thing:  the many factors that a judge must consider are not assigned any priority.  If a marriage has lasted 25 years, is that more or less important than the fact that one spouse obtained a professional degree during the marriage?  Is the fact that one party was the primary caretaker of the couple’s children for 10 years more or less important than the fact that the other party has chronic health problems?  The answer is that the relative importance of the listed factors, as well as what other factors might be dispositive, is solely up to the discretion of the judge.  Since each judge comes to the case with his or her own unique values and expectations, the relative importance of relevant factors may vary greatly from judge to judge.  This makes alimony outcomes entirely unpredictable.

 Absolute unpredictability of legal outcomes arguably has many consequences, but here I am concerned with only one: a totally unpredictable outcome skews bargaining behavior, and likely favors risk-takers and disfavors risk avoiders.  The stereotypical spouse likely to receive spousal maintenance payments would be a woman who has been married for over 20 years, and who spent most of that time as a full-time mother and housewife, perhaps also entertaining and otherwise supporting her husband’s career.  Statutes like §767.56 do not mandate an award of alimony to such a woman, and instead allow a potentially infinite number of “other factors” determined by the court to be “relevant” enough to result in the denial of maintenance.  Faced with uncertain financial prospects, the soon-to-be-ex-wife may settle for half or a bit more of the property, rather than petitioning for alimony that might not be awarded.  Indeed, her lawyer may well advise her to settle for the bird-in-the-hand of a property settlement.  The problem is that many women in this situation later discover that their diminished job prospects will not support anything like their marital standard of living, and they may rapidly exhaust their property nest-eggs after the divorce.  Moreover, a waiver of alimony is final, and the court has no discretion to re-open the case and award spousal support, even if the ex-wife is destitute.

If the spousal support statute offered more guidance such as a formula (as in child support cases), a starting presumption (as with property division) or even an ordering of priorities, divorcing couples could bargain with each other in a more informed and fairer way.  As it stands now, however, a petition for alimony is a roll of the dice.  If a divorcing spouse is not a gambler, her ex might successfully persuade her to settle for less than she needs, and less than she would receive in a more equitable system. 

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. Ken Seubert

    Clearly when one spouse uses the current law as a weapon, lies to the court, commits health insurance fraud, and still gets an increase in what I prefer to call ” private welfare” there is something terribly wrong with the system.

    I would appreaciate discussing this with someone from the law school.

    Ken Seubert

  2. Shonda Jackson-Jones

    How is it fair to a man who was married for 15 years, never had a child because his wife didn’t want to mess up her figure, only worked part-time jobs, openly cheated on her husband, and turned into a crackhead, pay $300/wk INDEFINITELY? She is able to work a full-time job, her health history is pretty good, and she also will receive a GOOD lump sum of his pension when he retires. He is now remarried and happy with children (what he has always wanted) but is struggling to pay their current bills. Please can someone answer this for me because I’m confused? I can understand the ex-spouse receiving for maybe five years or until re-married, whichever one comes first, but the indefinite thing is boggling to me.

  3. Anne Elk

    Great article by Ms. McMullen. How is it that child support, which is arguably the most important aspect of divorce, is dictated by formula, but spousal support is totally at the whim of the judge? The only people happy with the current system are the lawyers and the people awarded unwarranted amounts of alimony. Everyone else is totally disgusted.

    Situations like Ann Zebow’s (above) should be enough to get women riled into action, but in reality, the National Organization of Women (NOW) is one of the PRIMARY opponents of alimony reform. NOW members should be ashamed of themselves for allowing their sisters to be abused like Ann has been. Women now get the majority of degrees at all levels, are the higher earners in 35% of marriages, and in a few years will be probably be paying alimony as often as men. Meanwhile, NOW throws up roadblocks in every state where alimony reform is attempted. It is time to come into the 21st Century, ladies.

  4. Jon Pipkorn

    This law is old and outdated. My ex filed for divorce after a 34 year marriage. She did not work. I got hit with big time support payments. Prior to the divorce, she moved to Arizona, started cleaning homes for $25 per hr. She claims due the economy, she can only find 10 hours of work per week. I believe she is also hiding a portion of income. On top of that she is hiding behind her medical issues of arthritis and a few more things. Her doctor says she can work no more than 30 hours per week. Last year from Jan 2012 to the end of Oct, 2012, my income dropped $8000. Of course I am now in arrears, around $800. Nov 1,2012 had to take a medical leave for carpal tunnel surgery. I filed a motion to get my support suspended from the day of my 1st surgery to the time I go back to work, which was 11 weeks off. During that time I was on S T Disability which was less than 1/2 of my wages and about $400 short of my monthly expenses. The court Commissioner ruled that I should have used 2 weeks vacation for the first part of my medical leave, even though it was explained to him that you cannot take vacation pay while you are on S T Disability, which starts the first day I was off. He ordered me to pay her the full weekly support for 2 weeks plus $100 per week for the other 9 weeks I was unable to work. Being down $8000 and minus income for the last 2 months of the year while out on medical leave and now I still have to pay?? He also ordered that it come out of my tax return, I also have to E-file and have it paid by March 8th, 2013. My hearing was Jan 22,2013. Seriously? How fair is that? She doesn’t try to become self-supportive. I thought that, the reasoning behind maintenance was that a person could and should try to support themselves. I also have other medical issues (arthritis, nerve damage in my neck, tendonitis, cancerous tumor removed 5 years ago), and am 59 years old with no end date to my support payments. My health issues don’t seem to matter. On top of all that, she got approx $287,000 of my 401K, to which she contributed $0, and she is sitting on that. I will have to work myself into a early grave just so she can sit on her butt, why?? Because the law allows her to do it and it seems like the Judges and Court Commissioners are there to only look at numbers and adjust them as they feel like.

  5. Kay Braatz

    I realize that this law seems unfair but from my point of view I think it is necessary sometimes. I have become very ill and cannot work. I am on disability. Our finances took a big hit without two incomes, but my husband wanted to keep living like we were, with both of our incomes. Soon we were out of savings and he said I should cash in my 401K, which I did. So now everything is gone and he wants out, with disability payments I would not be able to pay for an apartment. Meanwhile he has a good paying job why shouldn’t he have to pay me. Or at least pay me the amount of my 401K that I had to cash in. Perhaps there should be limits but this law needs to stay on the books, otherwise you will have people leaving their spouses high and dry.

  6. Rick Cantrell

    Here’s a word problem for all you kids:

    Two business partners have a contract and one of them is dissatisfied and sues to dissolve it. All the books are gone over and assets accrued during the contract are divided equally. The court voids the contract and they part ways. But the court felt sorry for one of them and did not view that person as potentially successful and tipped the scales. One former partner was now ordered by the court to continue the business alone and give a large portion of the profits to the other for a period of time until a new contract is entered by the payee or death of either party. If the payor refuses to pay it could mean jailtime for contempt.

    1) Was the court fair?
    2) Should laws be changed to restrict the latitude of court decisions and protect the rights of the payor when a contract is ended?
    3) Why is a marriage contract different than any other contract?

    I submit spousal maintenance and alimony should be abolished. When a marriage is over, it’s over and one spouse should not be punished for having more earning potential.

    I have been told that my word problem was unfair and marriage is nothing like a business.

    Unfair? The government and courts made marriage a business partnership through legal involvement, licensing and taxation. Choosing not to work, like any choice has an element of risk. Was the person forced to abandon employment and stay home to raise children or even have children? I doubt it. There are plenty of single moms out there that work and raise kids so staying home is not a requirement of marriage. Spousal maintenance has become a financial safety net for those that chose not to work.

    Two consenting adults do indeed have equal opportunities, whether or not they exercise those opportunities is an individual choice. If that choice turns out to be the wrong one, nobody should owe you anything. You made a clear choice in life to stay at home, cook, clean etc. and have someone else provide for all your basic needs in lieu of a paycheck. By that logic, former employees should be paid “maintenance” by employers that terminate them. One party works to help the other succeed and gets nothing in return when the relationship ends. How is marriage not like a business partnership?

  7. Terry Hoppa

    One of you sounds like a huge misogynist. I won’t point fingers.

    1. Sherry Rudd

      He sure does!
      Although the marriage contract is mainly a financial one. Marriage and business contracts have a big huge difference between them, it’s called love. People do not get married without love, at least not ordinarily.
      The hope and promise of marriage and a life together is a big deal!
      That was the foundation originally to the support payments.
      In my situation, I stayed faithful, while he was an unfaithful truck driver. Who in The Last 5 Years of the marriage announced to me, “I’ll stay married to you, but you’re going to have to get used to me having sex with other women.”
      The final blow, two days before I finally filed…he looked at me in an argument and stated, “I’ll admit it, I’m only staying with you because of the money.”
      Well, that was the end of that.
      No, marriage cannot to be handled exactly like a normal business contract should be handled.
      There’s something beautiful in it’s old-fashioned style of function, that people need to go back to.
      Love is a choice.
      It’s an action word.
      It’s a verb, that produces feelings and outcomes.
      You don’t love somebody, if you don’t understand what the word love is.
      The courts seem to understand that love and marriage are still important.
      And when the love is gone, the finances are naturally affected.

      1. S Tonks

        Love is implied and is NOT recognized by the court or the law. Your words sound nice, but have no weight in court. People love jobs, or love their company, but that is intangible, unquantifiable, and fleeting. Divorce rarely happens because one side is at fault. It is typically built on a foundation of waning emotion by both sides until what once was is no more. Alimony is often an ongoing punishment for one side and a victory for the other that goes beyond meeting a need. Why is there any expectation that what happens after a marriage ends need be shared at all? The basis of it has ended, and with it the obligation to anything aside from the well being of minor children. You want the life you reasonably had before? Shouldn’t you continue to have sex with your ex? That was a part of the original marriage deal wasn’t it? If you were a housekeeper for your spouse, why aren’t they entitled to the cost of a housekeeper to offset your loss? Or the cost of a cook, a nanny or any other such service you provided? Routinely claimed as a value provided but never calculated in the finances. Seems selfish on the part of the payee to not offer this funding back to the payor. It’s not like they stopped eating or generating dirty laundry.

        Neither side got in it anticipating divorce, or they wouldn’t have done it. If your spouse has a business that fails and you divorce, the IRS and by extension, the courts, will recognize that you are an injured spouse and not responsible for the tax debt, regardless of whether you benefited from it during your marriage … you aren’t culpable. How come the one receiving the alimony has no burden to pay the other if the roles reverse? You’ve tied the one to the other by indebtedness, owing a lifetime of equivocal quality of life, regardless of how the payor’s life goes. They struggle with a job, health, etc. and they remain indebted to an ex, but if they were married, the payee would share in that loss. How is that fair? The payee gets an inheritance after the divorce and the best you can hope as a payor is that the court will review and reduce what you pay. At no point will you find that the payor receives repayment for anything. Had they been married, they would be entitled to half. It goes on and on. A marriage is a contract in the eyes of the law, a divorce is a termination of that contract. Many felonies incur smaller financial penalties and shorter terms than many alimony arrangements.

        The law needs to reflect the termination of the contract. It needs to have a finite limit to the amount of financial compensation someone is entitled to, and that should reflect a handful of factors (kids, length of marriage, major contributions … and detractions from the marriage, etc.). It should be reviewed periodically and based on an average income over years, not a paystub or a W-2 from a banner year. There should be a maximum based on an average standard of living, say poverty plus 50%, limited to 1 year per 3 of marriage and the monthly amount reviewed every 3 years. People stay in horrible marriages, have ongoing affairs, etc. to avoid getting crushed by alimony. Who signed up for that? Not all who get alimony deserve it at all, not all who pay it had it coming. If you’re not holding up your end of the deal (ongoing love, companionship, child-rearing, maid/butler service, sex, whatever), why would you be entitled to an ongoing share of the profits either? You quit your job. You cash out your 401k, get your last check, go find a new job and move on. You lose. They lose. Did you keep things from your spouse in your marriage? Trust? Honesty? Sex? Effort? Did you contribute to the failure? Probably. Most do in my experience. So your contributions to the business helped it to fail. You sell the remaining inventory, close the doors, and end it. No other person in this world gets a guarantee in life like an ex spouse that gets an alimony check. They no longer provide anything to assist in earning it, but somehow get “their share”. Your premise as an alimony recipient is that you contributed to the financial success of the marriage. No child care costs? Emotional support and encouragement to get them to that pinnacle? But now you are gone. Anything continuing to maintain them at that level is not you. I put stock in many companies. I love some of my picks. I love some of my companies. They do poorly, so do I. I want nothing to do with them, I sell the stock and move on. Alimony is one of the best-intended, worst-executed programs that could possibly exist.

  8. Paula Jensen

    I understand the maintenance to a point. Open ended maintenance I don’t get. My husband’s ex-wife is taking him back for more money because he changed jobs and is making more money. She wants her half. She is taking us to court, she is disabled, she has people coming and going at her house (living there, which affects her monthly budget) and she feels she is due the difference because her monthly expenses have increased. Yes we will fight these points at the expense of more lawyer bills, but it all comes down to how the judge feels. WHAT?????? She is playing her disabled card very well and the judge is buying into it. Why would she ever re-marry? She gets paid more than I make in a year. I am not asking for us not to pay at all, I just don’t think it should be increased. Feeling frustrated…..

  9. Noii Asberry

    I am currently researching Wisconsin’s Marital Property Act (WMPA), and I am really shocked that Wisconsin MPA’s adoption of the Uniform Marital Property Act (UMPA) has essentially turned marriage into a secularized business model, as described in Cantrell’s comments. A business model that relegates the sanctity of marriage–heterosexual marriage-to be clear–into a “…community property system…”

    It appears, from both Acts, that it is impossible to get a legal divorce from a marriage in Wisconsin because after the divorce, the Wisconsin Marital Property Act automatically remands the individuals to be married to their divorce based upon the UMPA language (adopted by Wisconsin) that “”[D]uring [the,definite article my inclusion]] marriage each spouse should have a legally defined and substanstial right in the earnings of the other spouse and in the real and personal property acqyired as a result of such earnings, as well as in the management of such earnings and property.” Moreover, and this is where my jaw almost hit the IPAD, “This right should outlive the marriage and retain legal recognition despite termination of the marriage by death, annulment, or divorce.” I thought, is it even possible to get a divorce when such stipulated language requires you to become married to a divorce after your divorce.

    It is my understanding that after married couples divorce, the state does not have a “right” to force individuals to be married with such legal language to “…outlive the marriage…” If the marriage is dissolved by legal divorce, the marriage should end for both individuals, and I really don’t believe ANY spouse should expect “…the same financial securities…” as when the marriage was in effect after the marriage has ENDED in divorce. This is the point, when judges award maintenance payments to individuals, mostly women, whom the judge decides should receive maintenance based on Wisconsin’s Marital Property Act, then the laws of marital property strait-jackets marriage into a maintenance based dependency of protectionism for women after divorce. The laws essentially guaranteeing women legal rights in becoming dependent on protectionism and really never experiencing real divorce due because the language of both Acts are structured to “…outlive the marriage…”

    What is left after the dissolution of the marriage? According to both Acts, an overreaching authority to continuously meddle into the individual lives of men and women and keep them married to a divorce after the marriage is over.

    My comments and perpsectives come from reading the Uniform Marital Property Act
    (UMPA), the Wisconsin Marital Property Act (WMPA), and the Marquette Law Review, Vol. 79, Spring 1996. And of course, selected divorce cases from the Wisconsin Bar Association’s “Caselaw Express.”

  10. Noii Asberry

    Is it true that some women become so maintenance dependent due to the state?

  11. Gerry Becker

    This is even when the court commissioner sits behind the bench, reading over the balance sheet. The commissioner says “Don’t see how you can possibly making ends meet with your income, but I am awarding her over half of your income. You still have to pay all the bills, maintain the vehicles and the house.” This happens all the time. When will the laws change?

  12. James Longhway

    The problem I have encountered as concerns judges having all the say in what amount of maintenance is to be paid is that judges rarely see cases with assets in the seven figures nor do they understand how small business works, and in fact the courts have made it profitable for the spouse to file for divorce. She has her freedom, gets half of the assets, then receives a monthly check, sits around, and enjoys life while the ex-husband works trying to pay his bills and the maintenance. In my case the judge threw out my prenuptial agreement allowing my to-be ex-wife (she filed for the divorce) to take half of assets that she had nothing to do with the accumulation of. She received seven figures in the settlement, the majority in cash, which included all of my retirement fund and then the judge sentenced me to five years of maintenance payments of 7,500 a month. I am 61 years old with no retirement. I am self employed and can only hope to be back on my feet if I continue to work to at least 70 and likely 75. They call this justice. Things need to change.

  13. Brian LaChappelle

    I got divorced, not because I wanted to. I’ve been responsible, held a job for 22 years, was married for 19. The judge threw the book at me, alimony for 7 years, half my pension I worked hard for and 401(k). I want to start over to start saving for retirement but I can’t afford to. I never even had a parking ticket and I get treated like this? It’s horrible, my work ethic is shot because who wants to work when your check is not going for children (we never had any) but to her and her boyfriend. Luckily I have a good psychologist. Where’s the justice? I’m in Wisconsin. I wasn’t perfect by no means, there are things I wish I could do over, but this is wrong. I could go on but what’s the use, I think I got my point across.

  14. James Longhway

    I also suffered through a divorce in WI which my wife initiated. the judge threw out my prenuptial agreement because he didn’t think it was fair. that cost me 500k. She then received over a $1,000,000 in cash and assets leaving me with no retirement fund. then he stuck me with 5 years of maintenance at $7,500 a month leaving me next to nothing to live on at age 62. I went back into court at a cost of 12K and asked for the maintenance to be reduced as the judge had miscalculated my income by 20K and I had a 20% drop in my income and the judge denied my request and stated that yes he did miscalculate the income but because I have fluctuations in my income he wasn’t going to reduce the maintenance. I also gave him copies of my commission statements for 2014 and 2015 showing the 20% reduction in income and he just ignored them. Now I am looking for a new lawyer to see if I can go back and get the maintenance reduced.

    I want to start a movement to have the amount lawyers can charge for a divorce capped. things would get done much quicker that way. Also want to see what can be done to go after the judges that virtually ignore our constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Please email me if you want to work together to make a change in these laws. As individuals we can get it done but with the internet today we can ban together and make a difference.

    1. Brian LaChappelle

      Hello-I am a victim. I want to help. The more I dig into this the more I see men have even a worse situation than I do. What can I do to help-let me know.

  15. Mary K Prizwan

    The other side of the coin…54 year old woman with MS (having a difficult time typing this) worked and continues to work harder than most people you know. Happy, has a smile (grateful to be alive) even when diagnosed with Breast Cancer – goes back to work 10 hours week…cleans the house, shops, mows the lawn, does the laundry, raises the kid, rarely watches TV and gets very little sleep. Divorces her ungrateful, coward of a husband and is awarded support after 23 years of abuse/marriage. Two years after the divorce, ex husband quits his job (in his typical temper tantrum fashion) and is trying to lower support payments. She will be living in a cardboard box. I think (and you should too) that “Peter Pan” needs to be told once and for all that “Wendy” and the judge aren’t buying it…

  16. Michael Brandons

    Man I feel everyone’s pain. I am going through a divorce in Wisconsin was military for 20 yrs was forced to retire cause ex caused some issue for me and then realized she would only get 20/20/15
    I’m 42 she’s 39. She took a 42,000 k job and got a 20k job before I filed she treated me like crap so I filed. Now I find out she’s pregnant by her 23yr old bf we have an 8 yr old son together. She never wanted to get her education and I’m sure she will cry about it she never took advantage of any of the military spouse education benefits. I’m sure I’m gonna get railroaded in the outcome which is a shame its funny my military retirement equals her yearly income and I went back to work making 56k why am I even working with my back issues and so forth totally sucks. any advice ?

  17. john a knop

    My wife divorced me five years ago and I agreed to pay her $350 a month but now I have become disabled at 57. all I have as true income is ssi disability so I pulled out what was left of my retirement and converted my home into three units. I rented out two of them and live in the third. since then I remarried and have one step child living with us. with the changes I can barely pay my bills and medical, so filed a motion to reduce maintenance and was denied. on top of that she brought up old matters that were settled with the closing of our home unexpectedly. I had no proof with me those matters had been settled so I was hit with those sums again. I lost on every thing so now I’m selling my home. I must sell off the few assets I won in the property settlement as well just to pay off this court order. all my investment and hard work will be lost. on disability ill make just $120 more then her but still I must pay that maintenance yet. ill be living down by the river in a van I guess, and with my ne wife and child. how is this fare? and why wont a lawyer help me? no one will even talk with me about this. im ready to just give up and die.

  18. Clarissa Cole

    Oh for the love of…if I hear one more man complaining about this, I’ll literally explode! The statistics on men who actually pay alimony and/or child support is PATHETIC. Around 61% pay anything at all, and the average woman is $4,300 in arrears at any given time. Heap on top of that the fact that the woman often has custody (and all the expenses that go with it), or was taking care of the home during the entire marriage (rather than building a career) and these complaints are even more ridiculous. Wisconsin is one of the very few states that actually imposes a measure of law when it comes to alimony or child support. In short, it forces men to fork over what their wives are due.
    And this comment is specifically to Rick Cantrell, who said this: “consenting adults do indeed have equal opportunities, whether or not they exercise those opportunities is an individual choice. If that choice turns out to be the wrong one, nobody should owe you anything. You made a clear choice in life to stay at home, cook, clean etc. and have someone else provide for all your basic needs in lieu of a paycheck.”
    Anyone who believes that is a a misogynist. And I’m saying this as the sole breadwinner in a home where my hubby stays home and takes care of…well…EVERYTHING ELSE! Without him, I wouldn’t have the time to go after all the opportunities because I’d be besieged with housework, shopping, etc all the time. Do I think that – if we divorced – he’s worth NOTHING? Do I think that he has all the same opportunities I have? No, I don’t. I have the education, the time, and the connections. To infer that by staying home he’s lazy?
    Well, that’s a pretty biased/short-sighted/unappreciative thing to say.
    It doesn’t surprise me, Mr. Cantrell, that your marriage failed. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t want to take care of you either!

  19. Mary Kay Prizwan

    Mr Knop I congratulate you on your initiative! Dividing your large home and turning it into income is a great idea! Does your new wife work inside or outside of the home? Is the father of your stepchild paying child support or is the stepchild over 18 and paying rent – to you?

  20. Nan Kallas

    I see no need to support your ex indefinitely. I believe a time frame should be put in place! A 5 year max!

    If I stayed at home, took care of the kids, and raised them, should I get income from my ex indefinitely? I’m a woman and I firmly believe this would be wrong. I was a single parent and didn’t even get the child support it took to raise them. I’ve seen too many women take advantage of the way this system is set up. I’m in Wisconsin, a no-fault divorce state. One example is the wife who cheated on the husband and got a divorce, and yet now the guy is stuck paying all the bills and $300-400 a week to his ex, who also took half of everything. So, one partner decides to stay home and raise the kids, while the other gets penalized for stepping up, working his ass off to raise his family, and then is left with nothing to show for his years of hard work.

    How can people fully move on when they are left supporting the ex-spouse who initiated the divorce? And this happens to both sexes. Something definitely needs to change. There should ALWAYS be a time frame put on support. This would encourage ex-spouses to find work and to try to make something of themselves. I compare it to the welfare system: you have to force people to step up.

    Divorce is divorce — where is the finality in it when you are left supporting the ex indefinitely? Changes need to be made.

  21. Andrea Zingsheim

    This law needs to be reexamined. I was married for 34 years of which my ex only worked about 15. He never wanted to take care of himself and eventually it caught up with him. He was hurt at work with a back injury which led to year after year of surgeries. Mind you, he could have taken an office job or even tried to work online but he didn’t want to do anything but manual labor. I not only cared for him and handled the household chores after each surgery but I also worked full time and raised his children from his first marriage (without any support from his ex). I realized I made a mistake early on in the marriage but I couldn’t leave the kids and I felt sorry for him even though he treated me like a servant. He eventually was given disability after several years of no money coming in from him. The last five years of our marriage was complete hell and I wanted out but he begged me to stay because he needed my insurance. We tried to live as roommates but he was emotionally abusive and eventually I needed to either leave or kill myself. He dragged out the divorce to get it closer to his 65th birthday so he could get his medicare and cost me $10,000 in legal fees because he wouldn’t even negotiate. He is living in the house that was paid for mostly by me, and I was given only 1/3 of the value because he was threatening to find more ways to drag on the divorce and he wore me down. He got half my first pension ($20K) and kept over 70% of the household property. On top of that he got $792 month alimony because I had worked my way up in my job (no thanks to him). The judge left it open that she knew I’d be retiring soon so payments would then be reevaluted and he may actually have to pay me then but I just don’t want to spend another extended time in court fighting him. We are not wealthy people-even his lawyer and the judge made comments about his erratic behavior-but the law is the law. So it isn’t just women who take advantage and benefit from this law-my ex is proving that. One good thing is that I learned my lesson-stay single and just have boyfriends:-))

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