Alimony in Minnesota: Frequently Asked Questions

Alimony in Minnesota is legally known as Spousal Maintenance. Alimony in Minnesota refers to one party providing income to another party during or after a divorce or legal separation. 

Judges determine spousal maintenance on a case-by-case basis, and there tends to be a great deal of judicial discretion when it comes to awarding alimony in Minnesota. In addition, spousal maintenance cases in Minnesota are often hotly-contested and fact-intensive so you need to be well-prepared.

Alimony in Minnesota Inforgraphic on Spousal Maintenance
Pin to save this infographic for a summary of alimony in Minnesota.

To help you better understand alimony in Minnesota, we’ll cover the following frequently asked questions, in this article:

    • When Can a Claim be Made for Alimony in Minnesota? 
    • How is Alimony in Minnesota Determined?
    • What Happens If the Parties Disagree on Alimony in Minnesota? 
    • How Much is Alimony in Minnesota?
    • How Long Can the Court Order Alimony in Minnesota?
    • What’s the Most Typical Situation for Awarding Alimony in Minnesota?
  • How Does Alimony in Minnesota Play Out in Court Today?

NOTE: Spousal maintenance is also sometimes called Spousal Support, or simply Maintenance. Therefore, the terms: Spousal Maintenance, Spousal Support, Maintenance, and Alimony in Minnesota are used interchangeable throughout this article. 

When Can a Claim be Made for Alimony in Minnesota? 

In certain circumstances during or after a divorce or legal separation, either spouse may ask for alimony from the other spouse.

In Minnesota, a court may order one spouse to pay alimony to the other spouse if it finds that the spouse seeking alimony:

  • A). Lacks sufficient property to meet reasonable needs/standard of living maintained during the marriage, or
  • B). Is unable to support him/herself through employment.

(Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.552, Subdivision 1). 

To determine if there may be grounds for a spousal maintenance claim in your divorce or legal separation, ask:

“Will one spouse be significantly better off financially than the other spouse, while the other spouse is unable to meet reasonable needs based on the standard of living set during the marriage?”

Therefore, when it comes to alimony in Minnesota, one party’s need for spousal support and the other party’s ability to provide spousal support are key issues in a case. 

How is Alimony in Minnesota Decided?

During a divorce or legal separation in Minnesota, spousal maintenance should be addressed. The divorcing or separating couple voices their beliefs regarding the necessity of spousal support and if so, the amount and duration. When the parties reach an agreement, they need to seek an Order for Spousal Maintenance from the court. In addition to following proper procedures, this entails drafting and submitting the correct documents to the court. If both parties have a divorce attorney and the maintenance settlement looks fair, the judge may sign off on the order and it can be included in the divorce decree.

NOTE: It’s important to understand that the only way that alimony in Minnesota is enforceable during, or after a divorce or legal separation is by obtaining a spousal maintenance order from the court that has been signed by a judge.

What Happens When Parties Disagree on Alimony in Minnesota?

However, if the divorcing or legally separating couple disagree or can’t agree on spousal maintenance, the couple may try alternative dispute resolution methods, such as, Mediation or Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE).

If such alternative dispute methods don’t resolve the issue of alimony, the legally separating or divorcing couple may turn to a judge. In Minnesota, a judge can determine if alimony should be awarded, and if so, how much and for how long. In this case, the court would be tasked with the responsibility to determine an amount and a period of time that is fair, and without regard to the marital conduct of either parties. 

alimony in minnesota divorce

How Much is Alimony in Minnesota? 

Unlike child support in Minnesota, there isn’t a guideline calculator used to estimate spousal maintenance payments. Instead, when it comes to alimony, Minnesota courts are tasked with the responsibility to determine an amount and a period of time that is fair, and without regard to the marital conduct of either parties. (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.552, Subdivision 2). 

When considering the amount and duration of a spousal maintenance order, a judge must consider certain factors. In a spousal maintenance case, a judge will consider things, such as, the following:

  • Length of marriage,
  • Income and/or financial resources of both parties,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Age of each party,
  • Education, job history, training and work experience/skills of the party seeking maintenance,
  • Property acquired by each spouse in the divorce or legal separation, 
  • Living expenses of each party,
  • Physical and emotional health and abilities of the spouse seeking maintenance, etc…   

In fact, by law, the judge must (at least) consider the following 8 factors listed in the infographic below.

Alimony in Minnesota - Spousal Maintenance Factors
Pin to save this image on alimony in Minnesota as a reference for what the judge considers when determining spousal maintenance.

How Long Can the Court Order Alimony in Minnesota?

As mentioned previously, when determining the duration of an alimony order in Minnesota, a judge will evaluate specific factors. Minnesota courts can make a temporary or permanent order for spousal maintenance. 

alimony in minnesota

Temporary Spousal Maintenance Order

A spousal maintenance order may be granted temporarily, during the divorce or only while the case is pending in Minnesota. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.62). 

The court can also grant a temporary spousal maintenance order, in which one party would receive maintenance from the other party for a limited amount of time or under certain circumstances. For example, a court may order one party to pay alimony to the other party after a divorce or legal separation, while the other party acquires necessary job training and/or further education for employment. Sometimes this is referred to as, Rehabilitative Maintenance. With a temporary spousal maintenance award, it’s very important that both parties understand when spousal maintenance will start and when payments will end.

Permanent Spousal Maintenance Order

In certain circumstances, the judge may order the other party to pay permanent spousal maintenance. For example, a judge may order permanent spousal maintenance if the marriage lasted a long time (say, 25 years) and there is a significant disparity between the parties’ incomes after the divorce or legal separation.

If there is uncertainty in the court regarding the necessity of a permanent maintenance order, the court can order a permanent maintenance order with the option of modifying the order in the future. (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.552, Subdivision 3).

Unless otherwise agreed to in writing or expressed in the divorce decree, future payments of spousal maintenance will end upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving spousal maintenance. (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518A.39, Subdivision 3).

What’s the Most Typical Situation for Awarding Alimony?

The most typical scenario when alimony is ordered is after a long-term marriage, where the wife stayed home to raise the children, while the husband worked full-time outside of the house.  

Presumably, the wife contributed much to the relationship in terms of raising the children and household care, and gave up opportunities for economic gain and employment to do so. Therefore, in this situation, it would be grossly unfair to allow one party to be financially well-off after a divorce or legal separation, while the other party struggled to make ends meet and had limited job skills and experience.

How Does it Play Out in Court Today?

Today, two-income households, more balanced incomes, and more balance with shared parental responsibilities has decreased the need for court-ordered alimony payments. However, this is not to say that spousal maintenance is not awarded in the courts, just that spousal maintenance orders are less common today, and tend to be temporary, rather than permanent.

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