Alimony in Minnesota: Frequently Asked Questions

Alimony in Minnesota is legally known as Spousal Maintenance. Alimony refers to one party providing income to another party during or after a divorce or legal separation to help them maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.

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.

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 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 yourself:

“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?”

Because, 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 aspects to a maintenance claim. 

How is Alimony in Minnesota Decided?

Divorcing or separating couples should address the issue of spousal maintenance during a divorce or legal separation in Minnesota. 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 obtain a Spousal Maintenance Order. * In addition to following proper procedures, this entails drafting and submitting the correct legal documents to the court. If both parties have a divorce or family law attorney and the maintenance settlement looks fair, the judge may sign off on the order to be included in a divorce decree.

*NOTE: Alimony in Minnesota is only enforceable during, or after a divorce or legal separation with 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. 

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.

How Long Can the Court Order Alimony in Minnesota?

As mentioned previously, a judge evaluates specific factors to determine the duration of an alimony order. In Minnesota, a judge can temporarily or permanently order spousal maintenance. 

Temporary Spousal Maintenance Order

In Minnesota, a spouse can request and be granted temporary spousal maintenance during a divorce or while a case is pending. (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.62). The court may also grant temporary spousal maintenance under certain circumstances or for a limited amount of time. 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. This kind of a temporary spousal maintenance order may be referred to as, Rehabilitative Maintenance. When it comes to a temporary spousal maintenance award, it’s essential that the parties understand when spousal maintenance will start and when payments will end.

Permanent Spousal Maintenance Order

In certain circumstances, a judge may order the other party to pay permanent spousal maintenance. For example, a judge might 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 Alimony is Awarded?

The most typical scenario when alimony is ordered is after a long-term marriage, where one party (more commonly, the wife) stayed home to raise the children, while the other party (more commonly, the husband) worked full-time outside the home. 

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?

However, today, two-income households, more balanced incomes, and more balance with shared parental responsibilities has decreased the need for court-ordered alimony awards. Although, this doesn’t mean alimony is no longer ordered in the courtroom. Instead, it just means that spousal maintenance orders are less common today, and when awarded, tend to be temporary, rather than permanent.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.