Alimony in Minnesota: Frequently Asked Questions

Alimony in Minnesota
Alimony can be expensive, but also needed

Alimony in Minnesota is legally known as Spousal Maintenance. Alimony is one party providing income to another party during or after a divorce or legal separation.  It’s designed to help the receiving spouse maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.

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:

  • Lacks sufficient property to meet reasonable needs/standard of living maintained during the marriage, or
  • Is unable to support him or 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?  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 key threshold questions.

What if the Couple agree on Alimony?

Divorcing or separating couples may need to address the issue of spousal maintenance. The couple may argue regarding the necessity of spousal support and if so, the amount and duration.

If the couple reaches an agreement, they need to obtain a spousal maintenance order. This order is often part of the final divorce decree.

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.  Alimony is only enforceable with a Court order. 

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 methods don’t resolve the alimony issue, the couple may 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 can be 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 hotly-contested and fact-intensive.

In Minnesota,  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, there isn’t a guideline calculator used to estimate spousal maintenance payments. Instead, 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. 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, etc…   

How Long Can the Court Order Alimony?

In Minnesota, a Judge can order temporary or permanent maintenance. 

Temporary Spousal Maintenance

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

For example, a Court may order one party to pay alimony to the other party to buy time for  necessary job training and/or education for employment. This kind of a temporary spousal maintenance may be referred to as, Rehabilitative Maintenance.

However, 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, a marriage lasted for many years.  The couple has a significant disparity between the their incomes.  The requesting spouse 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 the Most Typical 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.

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 awards.

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

Regardless of these trends, as stated previously, alimony is decided 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.