Can my ex-wife be awarded maintenance years after divorce?

Question:mens divorce lawyer

My child support obligations will terminate this summer when my child graduates high school and is considered emancipated. Now that my child support payments are about to end, my ex-wife is filing a motion for maintenance.

The maintenance issue was left open-ended in our divorce decree, but can she get it awarded to her now simply because my child support payments to her are ending?

How much maintenance would I have to pay?


Since the maintenance terms were held open in your divorce judgment, your ex can file a motion for maintenance at this time. Maintenance, unfortunately, is not determined by a formula like child support. Without more facts on your situation, I cannot ascertain the likelihood of her receiving maintenance from you and for how long.

The concept behind maintenance is that the support from the higher income-earning spouse to the other spouse is meant to sustain them until they reach a standard of living that they enjoyed during the marriage. In other words, maintenance helps financially bridge the gap.  Determinations of maintenance are fact intensive and highly discretionary determinations by the judge.

In the state I practice in (Wisconsin), the starting point to determining maintenance is to equally divide the total net income of the parties. The court then considers the following factors in making its decision:

  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 be-come 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.

The likelihood of what you will pay maintenance depends on the facts of your case. I have only provided general information to you. For a more in-depth answer and advice you should contact a family law attorney in your jurisdiction.

Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide.


Trisha B. Festerling is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices family law exclusively. Ms. Festerling’s practice is focused on men’s divorce, child support, child custody, paternity and modification. She is licensed in the state of Wisconsin. Ms. Festerling received her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice with a focus on Political Science, Magna cum Laude, from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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2 comments on “Can my ex-wife be awarded maintenance years after divorce?

    Determination of alimony
    In general, you will pay more in alimony the longer you are married. Thus, the longer the marriage, the more exposure you may have to paying alimony.

    Alimony is based upon a demonstrated need by one party, and the ability to pay by another party. So if one party is in poor health and the other party is healthy and if the same party that is healthy has the ability to pay, then it’s likely the healthy, higher wage earning party will have to pay more alimony to support the unhealthy, poor party.

    The actual amount depends on the facts of your case. In most states, judges have wide discretion in deciding which factors carry more weight and how much alimony will be paid.

    Please elaborate
    I have seen these words used several times about Maintenance.

    1.The length of the marriage.
    2.The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.

    No one ever elaborates on how they affect it. i.e. longer marriage higher amount or lower. older = more? poor health = more?

    My wife is receiving Social Security Disabliity. However, I believe she could work even through her disability (foot issues). My pay is about 9x her disability payments.

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