Alimony in Minnesota

Alimony in Minnesota
Alimony can be expensive, but also needed

Alimony in Minnesota is legally known as Spousal Maintenance. Spousal maintenance is also sometimes called “spousal support”, or simply “maintenance”.

With alimony, a spouse provides income to the other during or after a divorce or legal separation.  Alimony is designed to help maintain the marital standard of living.

When Can a Claim be Made for Alimony in Minnesota? 

During or after a divorce or legal separation, either spouse may ask for alimony from the other.

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

  • Lacks sufficient property to meet reasonable needs/standard of living maintained during the marriage, or
  • Is unable to support him or herself with his or her own income.

(Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.552, Subdivision 1).

To determine if there may be grounds for a spousal maintenance claim, a court may ask:

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

One party’s need for spousal support and the other party’s ability to provide spousal support are the two key threshold questions.

What if a Couple agree on Alimony?

During a divorce, a couple may argue regarding the need for spousal support or the amount and duration.

However, if the couple reaches an agreement, the agreement can become part of a court order.  This court order is typically in a divorce decree.

If both the maintenance settlement looks fair, the judge will likely make it an order. Alimony is only enforceable with a court order. 

What if a Couple disagrees on Alimony?

On the other hand, if a divorcing couple disagrees on spousal maintenance, the couple may try alternative dispute resolution.  This includes Mediation or Financial Early Neutral Evaluation (FENE).

If a couple still can’t resolve the issue, the couple must turn to a Judge.  Judges determine spousal maintenance on a case-by-case basis.  They have a great deal of discretion.  For this reason, spousal support is one of the more unpredictable divorce issues.

In the event of a hearing, a judge will determine if alimony should be awarded.  If it’s awarded, the judge will also decide how much and for how long. In these cases, spousal maintenance is often fact-intensive and hotly-contested.

In Minnesota,  the court is tasked with the responsibility to determine a fair amount and duration without regard to the marital conduct of either spouse.

How Much is Alimony in Minnesota? 

Unlike child support, spousal maintenance doesn’t use a guideline calculator. Instead, Minnesota courts determine an amount and a period of time that is fair. (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.552, Subdivision 2). 

When considering the amount and duration, a judge must consider certain factors. These include:

  • 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.  

How Long Can the Court Order Alimony in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, a judge can order temporary or permanent maintenance.  However, these terms are a bit deceptive.  Temporary doesn’t necessarily mean temporary.  And permanent doesn’t necessarily mean permanent.

Temporary Spousal Maintenance

Temporary spousal maintenance can be granted during or after a divorce (Minnesota Statutes, Section 518.62). The court may grant temporary spousal maintenance under certain circumstances.

For example, a court may order one spouse to pay alimony to buy time for  necessary job training and/or education for employment. For this reason, temporary spousal maintenance is also known as rehabilitative maintenance.

Also as mentioned, temporary doesn’t necessarily mean temporary.  Instead, it means when the maintenance period ends, the ex-spouse receiving maintenance has the burden to show why maintenance should be extended, if he or she wants it to. 

Permanent Spousal Maintenance

In certain circumstances, a judge may order permanent spousal maintenance. For example, imagine a marriage that has lasted for many years.  One spouse was a homemaker.  The other the breadwinner.  Now, the couple has a significant disparity between the their incomes.  The homemaker is older and it would be difficult for him or her to reenter the workforce.  This may be a situation for permanent support.

If the Court is uncertain regarding the necessity of a permanent maintenance order, the court can order a permanent maintenance.  (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 518.552, Subdivision 3).

Unless otherwise agreed to in writing or expressed in the divorce decree, future payments of spousal maintenance 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 a Prototypical Alimony Situation?

The most typical scenario involves a long-term marriage in which 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.  Also, she likely gave up career opportunities to do so.

In this situation it would be grossly unfair to allow one party to be financially well-off  while the other party struggled to make ends meet with limited job skills and experience.

Alimony in Minnesota: How Does it Work in Court Today?

Today, two-income households, more balanced incomes, and more balance with shared parental responsibilities have all decreased the need for court-ordered alimony awards.

However, this doesn’t mean alimony is no longer ordered. Instead, spousal maintenance orders are just less common.  Also, support is more likely to be temporary. 

Regardless of these trends, as stated previously, judges decide alimony on a case by case basis.  The specific facts in a couple’s case are more important than overall trends.

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.