Ask a Divorce Lawyer: If I move out of state, can I get away with not paying maintenance?

Question: I was told that if I move to Texas I could stop paying my wife’s maintenance and that she would not be able to come after me to get her money, but that I would likely be arrested if I ever returned to Wisconsin. I have no desire ever to return to Wisconsin. Can I get away with it?



Answer: Although I do not practice in Texas, I do practice in Wisconsin and can provide you with a perspective on what relief she can receive from the Wisconsin courts.   

You are getting some very bad advice.  Just because you move out of the state of Wisconsin does not mean that your support order ends.  If you fail to pay, you will accumulate arrears and she can proceed to move the court to find you in contempt.  Even in your absence, the court could order a commitment to jail as a punishment for not paying and a warrant would be put out for your arrest.  She could also receive a judgment which she could then use to garnish your wages.  All she would need to do is find out who your employer is, at which point she would be able to garnish your wages in Texas.  In addition, she could register the Wisconsin support order in Texas and proceed in Texas courts for enforcement of the Wisconsin order.  There may also be tax return intercepts while you are in the arrears.   

The laws for maintenance are very different between Wisconsin and Texas.  However, just because you move to Texas does not mean that the support order changes.  If you cannot afford the maintenance payments and your financial circumstances are different from when the payments were ordered, you may be able to file a motion to modify the maintenance award.  You should contact a domestic litigation attorney in Wisconsin to review your situation to see if this is an option.  


Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.

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