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How is Spousal Maintenance Determined?

March 2, 2021

Calculator with Alimony on it Everything changes when one household becomes two in divorce, especially the financial situation of both spouses. If you are considering divorce or if you are somewhere in the process of getting one, you might worry about how you will support yourself on your own. Or, you might be wondering how much spousal maintenance (or “alimony”) you might have to pay your former spouse and for how long.

There is no way to know for certain if spousal maintenance will be awarded in your divorce or how much or for how long until the divorce is final. Nonetheless, it helps to understand the reason alimony is or is not awarded and how it is calculated.

For more than 30 years, The Law Office of Glen A. Norton has been helping clients in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and the surrounding communities with spousal maintenance determination during divorce and modifications as circumstances change.

Overview of Spousal
Maintenance in Minnesota

Minnesota law refers to the money one spouse is required to pay the other as part of a divorce agreement “spousal maintenance.” It may also be referred to as “alimony” or “spousal support.”

It is a faulty assumption to believe that the male spouse will automatically pay the female spouse maintenance. Now that both spouses are often employed outside the home, the decision regarding who pays who depends on which party is capable of paying alimony and which party needs the support to maintain a similar standard of living the couple had while married.

Either spouse may request spousal maintenance, and the court will consider two key issues:

  • Whether one spouse lacks sufficient property to maintain the standard of living after the division of marital property

  • Whether one spouse lacks the education or skills for sufficient employment or is providing care for children that is prohibitive to employment outside of the home

Types of Alimony

There are three types of alimony awarded by the court:

  1. Temporary support may be awarded to a spouse for financial support during the divorce process. This typically expires upon finalizing the divorce decree, but it does not prohibit awarding of short- or long-term support to begin subsequent to the dissolution.

  2. Short-term maintenance has an expiration date and is intended to provide financial support to a spouse until they can obtain the education, skills, or find employment that will make them self-supporting.

  3. Long-term maintenance is rare. It is awarded to provide support to a spouse who is ill or disabled, elderly, or otherwise unable to seek and find employment to become self-supporting.

Factors Considered

The court considers several factors in determining spousal maintenance:

  • The financial needs of the receiving spouse and the other spouse’s ability to pay maintenance

  • The time required by the receiving spouse to become self-supporting

  • The standard of living during the marriage

  • The length of the marriage and the receiving spouse’s loss of employability due to lost educational, training, and outside employment opportunities, often due to taking care of children in the home

  • The receiving spouse’s loss of seniority, retirement, and other employment benefits

  • The receiving spouse’s age and physical and mental health

  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including property acquisition and contribution as a homemaker

  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay while remaining financially independent

Modifications to an Existing Agreement

Significant changes in circumstances may permit the court to review an existing spousal maintenance agreement for potential modifications. This would include significant changes in the income of either former spouse. It also includes certain specific circumstances should the receiving spouse cohabitate with a new partner. The receiving spouse may ask the court to enforce a spousal maintenance order should the paying spouse not meet the obligations of the order.

Tax Ramifications

For divorces finalized before January 1, 2019, spousal maintenance payments are tax deductions for the payor and reported as income for the recipient. For those finalized after that date, there are no reporting requirements.

Work with a Skilled Attorney

Dividing assets, debts, and household income is part and parcel of divorce, and it is never easy. Both parties are forced to start over with less than they had built during the marriage which can make spousal maintenance an extremely contentious part of the divorce process. Having an experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate family law attorney on your side can help lower the stress level and put some distance between you and your spouse.

If you have been considering divorce, were already served divorce papers, or are somewhere in the legal process, you need an attorney who will work diligently to protect your best interests and advocate for them in negotiations and in court. Attempting to represent yourself is rarely a wise choice.

Spousal Support Attorney
Serving Minnetonka, Minnesota

The Law Office of Glen A. Norton has helped hundreds of individuals and families in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and Hennepin County, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Wayzata, and Eden Prairie work through the challenges of divorce and other family-related matters. You can get started by calling today to schedule a consultation and get started on building a more peaceful future.