How does a court determine spousal maintenance in Minnesota?

Spousal maintenance (formerly referred to as alimony) is a highly contentious area of family law, as well as one of the most complex aspects of any case. First, the Court must determine whether or not to award a party spousal maintenance. Once the decision is made that a party should receive spousal maintenance, the Court must determine the appropriate amount and duration of the award. Unlike child support, there is no formula that determines what one spouse must pay the other for spousal maintenance. Rather, determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance depends on a number of factors that must be weighed.

Minnesota Statute 518.552 governs spousal maintenance. Subdivision 1 discusses the first step of the process—whether there are grounds for an award of spousal maintenance. The Court may grant spousal maintenance to either party if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

  1. lacks sufficient property, including marital property awarded to that party in the dissolution, to provide for their reasonable needs given the standard of living during the marriage, especially, but not limited to a period of training or education, OR
  2. is unable to provide adequate self-support, after consideration of the standard of living during the marriage and all other relevant circumstances, through appropriate employment. Additionally, if the spouse seeking maintenance is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.

Once the Court determines that there are appropriate grounds to award spousal maintenance, the Court must then turn to the questions of amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance can either be temporary or permanent. Temporary spousal maintenance is generally awarded for a specific period of time, often to allow for the spouse receiving maintenance to receive education or retraining that will allow them to become self-supporting. Permanent spousal maintenance does not have a clearly defined end date, but may be modified in the future by either party.

When determining whether to award temporary or permanent spousal maintenance, the Court will consider the following factors contained in Subdivision 2 of the Statute (emphasis added):

  1. The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance and that spouse’s ability to meet their needs independently;
  2. the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to allow the spouse seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, and the probability, given the spouse’s age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming partially or fully self-sufficient;
  3. the standard of living established during the marriage;
  4. the length of the marriage and, in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which any skills or experience have become outdated and the spouse’s earning capacity has become permanently diminished;
  5. the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employments that were given up by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;
  6. the age and the physical and emotional health of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  7. the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet their own needs while also meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; and
  8. the contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property and the contribution of a spouse as homemaker or in furtherance of the other spouse’s employment or business.

Based on these factors, a Court will determine whether to award temporary or permanent maintenance and if the award is temporary, how long maintenance is awarded. The Court will also use these factors to determine the amount of a spousal maintenance award.

The specific facts of each case will determine whether or not spousal maintenance will be awarded in your case. I strongly recommend that you consult an experienced attorney who can assist you in navigating your spousal maintenance case. If you or someone you know is going through a divorce and has questions about spousal maintenance in Minnesota, contact us today for a free consultation at 952-800-2025, or reach out via our online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you.

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