Spousal maintenance, otherwise known as alimony, can be a complicated process. While every state has its own unique set of laws and standards regarding spousal maintenance, understanding how Minnesota handles this process after a legal separation is essential for those going through a divorce.
What is Spousal Maintenance in Minnesota?
Spousal maintenance in the Land of 10,000 Lakes goes by many names like spousal support or simply maintenance. Spousal maintenance awards are determined by judges and are unique, depending on each case. These cases fall under a great deal of judicial discretion and are often highly contested.
Due to the disputable nature of spousal support, a well-prepared case is essential for earning fair and adequate maintenance.
Types of Spousal Maintenance
There are various types of spousal maintenance orders in Minnesota upon which a judge will decide. There’s a variety of factors that will determine which model best suits a particular case. For every spousal maintenance decision, a judge must decide the amount of spousal maintenance, the method in which it is paid, and the length of time that said order is in effect. Accordingly, many people refer to spousal maintenance as “temporary” or “permanent.”
Temporary Spousal Maintenance
Depending on a number of factors, the judge may decide that temporary maintenance is best suited. For example, parties with short marriages would likely be awarded temporary maintenance rather than permanent maintenance. A temporary spousal maintenance request may also occur when one spouse needs time to gain employment, education, or job skills required to maintain their livelihood. This form is often referred to as rehabilitative maintenance. Specific circumstances like these require one spouse to pay support for a limited time while the other spouse “gets back on their feet.” Once the temporary period ends, it is up to the individual receiving the maintenance to prove why it should be extended, if so desired.
Permanent Spousal Maintenance
Under a very specific set of circumstances, a judge may award a permanent solution regarding spousal maintenance. This type of spousal support occurs after a long marriage (usually in excess of 20 years), with a fairly substantial disparity between incomes.
Permanent spousal maintenance requires a permanent maintenance order that will lay out the specifics regarding the payments. If it’s unclear whether or not a permanent solution is needed, provisions in the order that allow for future modifications can be added.
Permanent spousal maintenance will terminate once one or the other spouse dies, a remarriage occurs, or by future court order. It is important to understand that a permanent spousal maintenance award may change if the obligor (person ordered to pay maintenance) chooses to retire from working.
How Does Spousal Maintenance Work?
Spousal maintenance is most prevalent in Minnesota after a long-term marriage ends, especially when children are involved, and the family structure had one spouse staying home as a caregiver while the other worked full time outside of the household.
In cases of long-term marriages,, both spouses played an essential role in the family structure. In these cases, the courts understand that one spouse was unable to sustain any employment of their own and therefore did not foster economic gain.
The modern generation of newlyweds has more balanced incomes where both parties have the means and ability to create financial stability for themselves. That being said, this does not eliminate the need for spousal maintenance today. Instead, there are simply fewer permanent spousal maintenance awards compared to temporary solutions.
How is Spousal Maintenance Calculated in Minnesota?
There’s not a one size fits all solution for spousal maintenance, as every case is unique. The courts make determinations about the length and amount of spousal support that is needed.
Minnesota Courts make their decision based on fairness to both parties and do not take into consideration any marital misconduct.
So, how does the court determine the amount and length of spousal maintenance? Certainly, facets like the length of the marriage and the income of each party are considered — but there are several other factors a judge will evaluate when awarding spousal maintenance.
- Income is an obvious factor, as one spouse may receive a significant income from their career while the other does not work. Depending on stipulations that determine the structure of a partnership, income may play a significant role in spousal maintenance.
- Financial resources like marital property or other assets can also play a role in determining spousal maintenance. Depending on the size of the marital estate, the spouse seeking maintenance may receive enough property that spousal maintenance would no longer be necessary. This does not happen often, and can be a complex process.
- The age of each spouse can affect whether or not they are able to work or have the ability to train and/or learn the job skills necessary to acquire income.
- Education, job history, work experience, or other skills of the party seeking maintenance will be reviewed. As mentioned, the inability or ability of a spouse to create their own financial stability has a significant impact on spousal maintenance awards.
- The standard of living that occurred during the marriage can also be a significant factor during a spousal maintenance case.
- Loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits and any other financial opportunities that a spouse may have ignored or declined will also be evaluated.
While these provide a brief snapshot of the factors affecting spousal maintenance decisions, they are only a glimpse into the many moving parts that make up a case. Emotional and physical health are also evaluated, along with any contributions to marital property.
Spousal maintenance decisions are usually highly contested or at the very least, require mediation. A family law professional who is well-versed in spousal support cases on both sides can make the process easier and less troublesome.
Changes to Spousal Maintenance in Minnesota
There are several reasons why spousal maintenance may change after an order has been signed. Clerical errors in spousal maintenance payments, fraud or falsification of information (hidden assets), or an over-turn of a previous order are all common reasons why a change may occur.
Other factors do exist, for example:
- New evidence that affects a case
- New financial situations (a spouse loses their job)
- A temporary order has been fulfilled
- Health changes
Note: Failing to pay spousal support that has been ordered by a judge has severe consequences. Anything from asset seizure and wage garnishment to a revoked license or even arrest can be carried out. Paying spousal support is a legal obligation.
Keep in mind that Minnesota is a no-fault state. This statute means that who is at fault is of no significance regarding a divorce case, and adultery does not have any effect on spousal maintenance.
Consulting with an experienced legal team for a spousal maintenance case is essential. With the right support and counsel, the process can be far less stressful and time-consuming. While divorce is never a simple or painless process, it can be more comfortable with the right family law professionals.