What if I Married my Spouse Twice? How Does that Affect Maintenance in Wisconsin?

Maintenance, or spousal support, is most often ordered by the court from one spouse to another when one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage.

Typically, maintenance is intended to be “rehabilitative” and used to help the financially dependent spouse work towards a place where he/she can support his/herself.

Factors that the court considers when determining the appropriate maintenance amount are the following:

  1. The length of the marriage.
  2. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  3. The division of property made in the divorce.
  4.  The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
  5. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
  6. 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.
  7. The tax consequences to each party.
  8. Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, where such repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties.
  9. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other.
  10.  Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant.

Length of the marriage is one of the main factors used in determining maintenance, so it prompts the question, what happens if you marry the same person more than once? This may seem like a unique circumstance, but in our line of work we see situations like this more often than you would think.

When parties have been married to each other more than once, the court can look at the total years of marriage when determining the maintenance amount granted. The court may look to current conditions in determining maintenance, as it is not legally bound by the terms of the first divorce.

Please note, if an ex who is receiving maintenance payments (“payee”) remarries another person who is not a former spouse, maintenance ends automatically under Wisconsin law if the person obligated to make payments: (1) has proof of remarriage, (2) requests that the court vacate the current maintenance order, and (3) sends a copy of the request to the payee.

If you have any questions regarding maintenance, please contact our office at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free initial office consultation or visit our website for more information.

The Effect of Remarriage on Child Support and Maintenance

If a party gets remarried following a divorce with children, the court will not consider the new spouse’s income when determining child support nor can the court order the new spouse to pay towards child support or maintenance.

Child support is based upon a parents’ income, the time the children spends with each parent, and whether a parent is financially supporting other children. The court may modify child support based upon a substantial change of circumstances sufficient to justify revision of the current child support order.

The court considers the following as a “substantial change of circumstances:”

1. Change in the payer’s income
2. Change in the needs of the child
3. Change in the payer’s earning capacity
4. Any other factor the court determines is relevant.

Based on the above, remarriage is not sufficient to show a substantial change of circumstances warranting a revision of child support.

However, there are limited circumstances in which a court may consider the fact that a party has additional income available to him or her through a remarriage. As cited above, subsection 4 is a “catch-all” provision that allows the court discretion as to the factors it weighs when determining child support. Therefore, for example, if a party claims he cannot afford to pay additional child support, the court may determine his general economic circumstances have been improved due to a remarriage and additional spousal income as a reason to modify child support. Or, if a payee claims that she needs additional support because she cannot meet her budget or the needs of the children, the court may consider the fact that a new spouse contributes to that budget when reviewing same.

Maintenance is entirely different. For maintenance, remarriage is a determining factor that stops maintenance payments to the payee if the payer: (1) has proof of remarriage, (2) requests that the court vacate the current maintenance order, and (3) sends a copy of the request to the payee. Remarriage of the payor does not affect maintenance payments at all and is not grounds for the payee to seek additional monies.

The bottom line: a new spouse has no obligation, either directly or indirectly, to support a child of a former marriage/relationship or to a former spouse.  There is no direct effect of remarriage on a child support or maintenance order.