With legalization and recognition of same-sex marriage arriving in Wisconsin in October of 2014, and finally spreading to the rest of the United States by June of 2015, many in the Milwaukee LGBT community celebrated. For some in the community, however, this shift in state and federal law raised new questions about their rights under Wisconsin law. One of the lesser-known issues surrounding same-sex marriage has been same-sex divorce; people in a relationship lacking legal recognition have few legal options or protections upon the dissolution of that relationship.
The skilled Milwaukee spousal maintenance attorneys at MacGillis Wiemer LLC have more than two decades of combined experience. With our experience in Wisconsin family law, and our determination to remain abreast of all the latest legal developments in same-sex divorce, we are tenacious advocates for your rights to spousal maintenance.
Spousal support is intended to help a spouse left in a disadvantageous position when a marriage ends, usually due to having a much lower earning capacity than the spouse has. Unlike child support, which is the right of the child (and not the parent), required by law, and determined using a formula set by state statute, the right to receive spousal support (sometimes called spousal maintenance or alimony) is much more discretionary, in that courts consider the matter under much more general guidelines in a divorce action.
In opposite-sex divorces, Wisconsin judges have traditionally looked at factors such as:
Given these considerations, a spouse is generally more likely to receive an award of spousal support when the marriage is considered to have been long term (generally at least twenty years) and when one spouse has a significantly higher earning capacity than the other spouse.
One of the most reliable factors in determining the likelihood and amount of maintenance award is that of the marriage’s duration. Such an award is unlikely when the marriage is deemed to have been short-term, which generally denotes any marriage of less than five years.
For many in the LGBT community, this raises an issue which promises to persist for years to come: is it equitable to label a marriage as short-term when the relationship itself predates, perhaps by decades, the October 2014 legalization and recognition of same-sex marriage in Wisconsin?
Conversely, because Wisconsin did not permit same-sex couples to divorce during that time in which it did not recognize such marriages performed in other states, and because residency requirements in some states are far stricter for divorce than for marriage, should an out-of-state marriage occurring in 2003 be considered a medium-term marriage if the relationship ended in 2004, but obtaining a divorce remained impractical for an additional decade?
Fortunately, Wisconsin family judges are permitted to consider all of these factors when considering spousal maintenance. Evidence indicating that a spouse forewent educational or career opportunities for the sake of the marriage, and is now substantially disadvantaged as a result, can provide strong support to a support claim. However, it should be noted that when a court does order a spouse to make support payments, it usually sets forth the date upon which the payments can stop. Permanent awards of support are infrequent.
If you are seeking a same-sex divorce in Wisconsin and wish to seek spousal maintenance, you need the help of an aggressive and dedicated trial attorney. At the law offices of MacGillis Wiemer LLC, our team of Milwaukee spousal support attorneys are ready to help. Visit our offices on West Bluemound Road, contact us online, or call us at (414) 727-5150 to get started today.
Milwaukee – 414-727-5150
Hartford – 262-457-9192
Address: 11040 W Bluemound Rd #100, Wauwatosa, WI 53226