When a Minnesota couple is considering divorce, there are almost always a million questions running through their heads.
If children are involved, then custody fights and visitation schedules are likely of primary concern.
Issues over division of marital assets are another major worry. Another common topic of confusion for both parties is alimony, or as it is now referred to under Minnesota law, spousal maintenance.
What is spousal maintenance?
Though the term is a new one, spousal maintenance is simply alimony rebranded. Spousal maintenance exists as a way to equalize the financial disparities that can exist in some marriages. Spousal maintenance can be paid by either party or no one at all. Such awards are not required as a part of a Minnesota divorce, but instead exist when circumstances call for it.
What types of spousal maintenance exist in Minnesota?
States often differ about which varieties of spousal maintenance of alimony can be awarded to residents. Here in Minnesota, there are three options: temporary spousal maintenance, rehabilitative spousal maintenance and permanent spousal maintenance.
Temporary maintenance is granted at the discretion of the court during the divorce proceedings and before the final decree. Short-term maintenance, also known as rehabilitative maintenance may be granted to allow the receiving party time to gain necessary skills or education to stand on his or her own two feet.
Long-term, or permanent, maintenance can be granted to a spouse who has significant needs, and is usually reserved for lengthy marriages.
How is spousal maintenance determined?
When judges are trying to determine how much, if any, spousal maintenance to award there are several issues that must be dealt with.
For starters, the spouse asking the court of a maintenance award must prove that either they lack sufficient marital property to provide for their reasonable needs considering the living standard that existed during the marriage or that they are unable to sufficiently support themselves in light of the standard of living established during the marriage.
Assuming the spouse clears this burden, judges will then consider an array of factors when determining how much maintenance to award. From the start we should make clear that unlike child support determinations, there is no rigid formula to follow. Instead, judges must consider all relevant factors, weighing the need of one spouse versus the ability of the other spouse to pay.
One factor that is not considered when determining whether or not to grant spousal maintenance is marital misconduct. This means that extramarital affairs do not play a role in determining who gets how much money.
What factors do judges consider?
Judges deciding whether to award spousal maintenance consider a multitude of factors, including the following:
- The financial resources of the person seeking the spousal maintenance as well as the financial resources of the person who would be paying the maintenance
- Whether the person seeking the money requires it for a finite amount of time to get back on his or her feet or whether the money will be a permanent necessity
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The length of the marriage and the roles of both parties (meaning whether one person was designated the stay at home parent)
- How much each party contributed to the marriage financially, either in terms of money or in terms of sacrifices meant to further the other person’s career
- The age and general health condition of the parties
An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can help walk you through the difficult process of divorce, including offering advice on confusing financial issues such as alimony and helping negotiate emotional subjects like child custody arrangements. For more information on divorce in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at (612) 424-0398.
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