The Law : Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is typically ordered where one spouse lacks the capacity to become fully self-supporting given the income and resources available to that spouse. If one spouse is unable to become self- supporting, and the other spouse is able to provide for their assistance, that other spouse may be required to pay spousal maintenance.

At the time of divorce, if spousal maintenance is awarded, it can be done in one or a combination of the following manners:

  • Permanent: This type of spousal maintenance is to be paid until either the death of the payer of the remarriage of the recipient. Some agreements may include a “cohabitation” clause that states alimony ends when the recipient cohabits with another person in the avoidance of marriage.
  • Lump sum: This type of spousal maintenance is one payment of alimony instead of periodic (usually weekly or monthly) payments. Lump sum spousal maintenance just like all other spousal maintenance is taxable, so be sure to consult with a CPA experienced in divorce to determine the tax consequences of this type of payment prior to agreeing to it.
  • Temporary: This type o fspousal maintenance lasts for a specific period of time, usually one to two years. This type of spousal maintenance may be awarded when the persons involved are on almost equal ground but due to certain circumstances one person may need financial assistance in order to “get on their feet”.
  • Rehabilitative: This type of spousal maintenance is the most commonly awarded type. It is awarded in a situation where the recipient is younger, or able to eventually enter or return to the workforce and become financially self-supporting. Rehabilitative spousal maintenance may include payments for the education necessary to enable the recipient to become self-supporting.

Under Minnesota law when spousal maintenance is ordered it is normally considered either rehabilitative or permanent. As described above, the intent of this kind of maintenance is to allow the other spouse to get rehabilitated and become self-supporting, sometimes through education and training, and sometimes through working on the job. This type of maintenance award is normally more common in shorter marriages.

Permanent maintenance is maintenance that can continue indefinitely, possibly for the remainder of both spouses’ lives. Permanent maintenance is ordered when it is uncertain as to whether the lower earning spouse can ever fully become self- supporting. This is more common in marriages of long duration, or in marriages where one spouse has a physical or mental disability, which make it unlikely that they can become self-supporting.

It is often very difficult to determine spousal maintenance. Minnesota does not have any spousal maintenance guidelines on exactly how much spousal maintenance is typical. Quite often it is best to look at the incomes of the parties and the reasonable budgets that both parties will have once they are separated. This will help to determine what amount of spousal maintenance will be reasonable. It is also helpful to try to determine the future career path of each spouse and what the spouses are likely to make in the future. Sometimes when it is uncertain what one spouse can make in the future, a vocational expert will be attained, or a vocational assessment will occur to assist in determining the future earnings of that spouse.

Under Minnesota law, when the Court determines if an award of spousal maintenance is appropriate, they may look at the following factors:

  • The amount of the property the spouse will have upon settlement, and the needs of that spouse in light of the standard of living during the marriage;
  • Whether the spouse will be self-supporting, taking into consideration the standard of living during the marriage;
  • Whether the payment of maintenance will allow the children to remain in the home, and the circumstances which warrant having the custodial parent remain home with the children.

Factors in Determining Spousal Maintenance
In determining how much maintenance the spouse will receive and the length of time the maintenance will continue, the Court considers many of the following factors. These include but are not limited to:

  • Length of marriage;
  • Age, as well as physical, mental and emotional state of each party;
  • Income and liability of each spouse;
  • Other income, including but not limited to interest and dividends;
  • Present and potential earning capacity of each spouse;
  • The standard of living of both spouses during the marriage;
  • Child care or child support obligations;
  • Economic needs of each spouse;
  • The opportunity of each spouse for further acquisition of assets and income;
  • The time necessary for either spouse to acquire further education to enable them to obtain gainful employment;
  • The contribution by one spouse to education and furtherance of career of the other;
  • The contribution of one spouse as a homemaker;
  • How much the earning power will be affected by the parenting requirements of the custodial parent