What is Spousal Maintenance?

What is Spousal Maintenance?Few issues in divorce are the subject of as much misunderstanding as spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony. Many people imagine spousal maintenance to be a thing of the past, a relic of the era when men worked outside the home, and women took care of the children and housework. Still others think that alimony is awarded in every divorce case, ending only when the party receiving it remarries or dies.

The truth lies somewhere in between, and is much more complicated. Here's what you need to know about spousal maintenance in Minnesota.

Short-term vs. Long-term Spousal Maintenance

In Minnesota, if awarded, the duration of spousal maintenance can vary widely from a couple of months to a number of years, or to permanent maintenance that terminates only upon death or remarriage.

Temporary spousal maintenance, unsurprisingly, is more likely to be awarded in a marriage of shorter duration and where the parties are parting ways earlier in life. A spouse who stopped working outside of the home for a few years to care for children might need some time to find work that enables him or her to become self-supporting, and might need some additional work training, as well. Temporary spousal support is designed to bridge the gap between the divorce and and the ex-spouse who receives maintenance becoming self-supporting.

Long-term spousal maintenance is often called "permanent" maintenance, but this is something of a misnomer. Long-term spousal maintenance can terminate for a number of reasons: the death of either party, or the remarriage of the spouse receiving the alimony, or the occurrence of any event that the parties specified in their divorce settlement including retirement. Long-term spousal maintenance is often awarded in marriages of a much longer duration, especially if the spouse asking for support is older, has health issues, or is unlikely to become self-supporting for other reasons.

If you and your spouse reach an agreement on spousal maintenance, you can decide the amount, how long it will be paid for, under what circumstances it will terminate, and whether it will be modifiable. Of course, you may not be able to reach agreement on spousal maintenance. In that case, a judge will have to decide.

There are also many situations where spousal maintenance is not a viable issue in a case because the parties have been married for such a short time or their incomes are relatively similar or a spouse has a demonstrated ability to earn more than they are earning in their current position of employment or a spouse does not have the ability to pay.

What Judges Consider—and Don't—in Spousal Maintenance Cases

Courts need to consider the following factors set forth in Minnesota law when deciding spousal maintenance cases:

  • the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance;
  • how long it would take the party seeking maintenance to be able to become self-supporting;
  • the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • the length of the marriage, and, if one spouse was a homemaker, how long he or she was absent from the workplace and how that might have affected his or her ability to become self-supporting;
  • the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities forgone by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;
  • the age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
  • how much each party contributed to the value of the marital property, and the contribution of a spouse as homemaker or in furthering the other spouse's business.

In some states, courts consider marital misconduct, such as infidelity, in whether to award spousal support, and in the amount awarded. However, Minnesota law specifically excludes marital misconduct as a factor to be considered in alimony awards.

If you'd like to learn how MInnesota law on spousal maintenance applies to the facts of your case, we invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse, P.A. at (952) 224-9977 to schedule a free initial consultation. We look forward to helping you resolve the issues in your divorce and move forward with your life.

Categories: Divorce