If you are going through, or will be going through, the alimony process in Minnesota, you probably have many questions about what you can expect. If you hope to alleviate some concerns or confusion you may have, this quick overview should provide you some answers to your basic questions.
What is Alimony?
Alimony in Minnesota is known as “spousal maintenance.” You may also hear it referred to as “spousal support” or even just “maintenance.” For the purposes of this article, we will use these terms interchangeably. Alimony in Minnesota refers to one party providing income to another during or after divorce or legal separation.
Justices determine maintenance awards on a case by case basis, and there is a great deal of judicial discretion when it comes to the awarding of alimony in the state of Minnesota. Additionally, spousal maintenance cases are tightly contested and so stringent about facts that you must be very well-prepared to make your case.
Types of Alimony in Minnesota
When taking a look at the duration of an alimony award in Minnesota, a judge will take a look at several different factors, which we will discuss a bit later on. Minnesota family law courts can make a permanent or temporary order for spousal support.
A temporary spousal maintenance order is one that is granted temporarily, during the divorce, or only while the case is pending in the state of Minnesota.
The court may also grant a different type of temporary spousal maintenance order, where one party would get maintenance from the other party for a limited time only or under specific circumstances.
For instance, a court might order one party to pay support to the other party after a divorce or legal separation while the other party gathers the necessary job skills or education as a means of gaining appropriate employment.
This is known as rehabilitative maintenance. When it comes to temporary spousal maintenance awards, it is critical that both parties understand when these payments start and end.
A permanent spousal maintenance award is awarded under specific circumstances. A judge, for instance, may order such an award if the marriage lasted a long time – 25 years, for instance – and there is a large disparity between the parties’ incomes after the divorce or legal separation takes place.
If there is uncertainty in the court about the necessity of a permanent alimony award, the court can order a permanent maintenance order with a provision that notes it can be modified in the future.
The Alimony Process
The most common scenario when alimony is ordered in Minnesota is after a long-term marriage, where one spouse stayed home to raise the couple’s children while the other one worked outside the house full time.
The courts presume that one spouse contributed heavily to the relationship in terms of raising the kids and care of the household, and in doing so, gave up chances for economic gain and employment of their own.
In this situation, it would be unfair to allow one party to be comfortable financially while the other struggles to survive after a divorce or separation takes place – especially when that party lacks limited job skills and experience.
In today’s society, however, we have more two-income households than ever. Incomes are more balanced. Plus, there are more shared parental tasks that have greatly reduced the needs for court-ordered spousal maintenance payments.
However, it should be noted that maintenance is not a relic of the past in Minnesota divorce courts. Spousal support payments today simply tend to be more temporary rather than permanent in nature.
Is There A Formula for Alimony in MN?
Unlike child support, there is no guideline or math formula used in calculating the amount of alimony a person will get or be asked to pay. Instead, the determination of alimony is up to the Minnesota courts.
They are tasked with the responsibility of determining an amount and a period of time that is appropriate and fair to both parties. It should also be noted that marital misconduct is not considered as part of this judgment.
When it comes to determining the amount and the duration of spousal maintenance, a judge has to look at several different factors. Some of the things he or she will look at include:
- The length of the marriage
- The income and financial resources of each party
- The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
- The age of each party
- The education, job history, training, and work experience or skills of the party who desires maintenance
- The living expenses of each party
- The emotional and physical health of the spouse who seeks alimony
More on Factors Affecting Alimony
During a divorce or a legal separation in the state of Minnesota, spousal maintenance will be addressed in some form or another. The divorcing or separating parties will state their beliefs regarding whether or not spousal support is needed, and if so, how much and how long it should last.
When the two parties come to an agreement, they must seek an Order for Spousal Maintenance from the court. Along with following the correct procedures, this includes drawing up and submitting the proper documents to the court.
If both parties have an attorney and the maintenance amount looks fair, the judge may sign off on the order and include it in the divorce decree.
Do bear in mind that the only way alimony is enforceable in the state of Minnesota is when the agreement of such an award has been signed off on by a judge.
There are plenty of things to consider when alimony is calculated. Here are eight of the biggest factors examined when determining alimony being awarded:
- The financial resources of each party that seeks alimony. This includes marital property that is apportioned to the party, and that party’s ability to meet their needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for the support of a child residing with the party includes a sum for that party as the custodian.
- The time that is needed to gather sufficient education or job training that will enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment, and the likelihood, given the age and skill of said party, that education or training can be completed and the party can become partially or fully self-sustaining.
- The lifestyle/standard of living that was established during the marriage is also taken into consideration.
- The justice presiding over the case will also examine the length of the marriage, and in the event that one party is/was a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which any skills or education have become outdated and earning capacity has been somewhat or permanently diminished.
- They will also examine any losses of earnings, seniority, benefits from retirement, and other employment opportunities that were foregone by the spouse who is seeking spousal maintenance.
- The contribution of each party in the acquisition, maintenance, depreciation, or increase in value of marital property as well as the contribution of each spouse as a homemaker in the progress of the other party’s business or employment.
In the event that a legally divorcing couple cannot agree, or disagree on, spousal maintenance, the couple may wish to try mediation or Financial Early Neutral Evaluation. In the event that these alternative methods do not aid in the agreement of the alimony award, the legally separating or divorcing couple may ask for help from a judge.
In the state of Minnesota, a justice can determine how long alimony should last, how much, and if any should be awarded at all. The court would then have the task of determining an amount and a period of time that is fair – and, of course, without regard of marital conduct for either party.
Can Alimony Be Changed?
In the state of Minnesota, there are some instances in which alimony can be changed. These instances include the following:
- Errors – For instance, if the court originally calculated alimony payments and then discovered a clerical error set alimony to last longer than agreed upon, this is an error than can quickly and easily fixed.
- New evidence affecting your case – Suppose your ex-spouse comes into some money by way of getting a promotion. Suppose your ex-spouse loses his or her job and begins to struggle financially. If cash flow is affected, you can be sure your maintenance will be, too.
- Fraud, falsification, misrepresentation – For example, suppose your spouse hid assets intentionally to avoid paying her fair share during the process of divorce.
- Fulfillment of the order – Maintenance is not forever in most cases. Depending on the length of the marriage and the other factors we talked about, alimony may just be a temporary fix to provide the recipient spouse with the resources needed to find work and train for a job that meets today’s workforce guidelines. Once this is met, the court may reduce or get rid of the monthly payments altogether.
- Vacating the order or judgment – The courts may overturn a previous order and then update it with a new one.
- Significant changes in life, health, and relationships – For example, the remarriage of either spouse can seriously affect the financial picture. If a woman who is receiving alimony remarries a millionaire, for instance, the court may decide that she no longer needs or qualifies for an alimony award.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
The length of time that alimony lasts is dependent upon a few different factors. There are a few different types of orders that we have discussed. As a refresher, they are:
Temporary Orders – These last while the divorce case is pending.
Short-Term Order – This refers to awards designed to rehabilitate or help one of the spouses gain job skills or education needed to become independent and self sufficient.
Permanent Alimony – If a marriage lasted a long time, or if one party is not able to support themselves alone, the court may order a longer period of maintenance or even permanent maintenance in some circumstances. The court may order this when one spouse is unable to work because they are a full-time caregiver of a child that has mental, physical or medical needs that require an intense amount of care.
It should also be noted that in 2016, the Cohabitation Alimony Reform bill was passed in Minnesota. This allows for changes to the long-held practice of spousal support after divorce when receivers of such monies are plainly sharing their homes and lives with a new romantic partner.
Payor spouses can go back to court one year after a divorce is finalized to seek suspension, reductions, or even total termination of alimony payments.
What If I Do Not Pay Alimony?
If you do not make your alimony payments in a timely manner, you will likely experience the following ramifications:
- Wage Garnishment- The funds will be deducted from your regular paycheck. Your employer will be instructed to withhold the amount from your paycheck and send it directly to your ex-spouse.
- Asset Seizure- Not paying alimony is a violation of court orders. Your financial estate may be confiscated and used as alimony payments.
- Arrest or License Revocation- Your passport and driver’s license may be confiscated, prohibiting you from carrying on with business as usual.
The best thing to do is pay your alimony on time, every time.
Does Adultery Affect Alimony?
In short, no. Minnesota is a no-fault state, which means that if you and your spouse both agree that your marriage has broken down beyond repair, and the judge agrees with you, your divorce order will be issued.
Minnesota’s courts will not take into consideration evidence of fault when it comes to deciding if a divorce should be granted.
However, it may affect other areas of divorce. Suppose, for instance, your spouse used up the marital savings to purchase jewelry for his or her lover. The court might consider that as evidence when it comes to an equitable property division.
As always, you should consult with your legal team for the best information about your case or for additional information on alimony in Minnesota.