Spousal maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is a well-known but often misunderstood aspect of divorce. Many people are unclear about the specifics of the process, including what the payments are for, who is entitled to receive them, and how long the maintenance will last. In this post, I’ll break down some of the most common questions about spousal maintenance to give you a better idea of what to expect.
What is spousal maintenance, and what’s it for?
Spousal maintenance is a regular payment from one spouse to the other for some length of time. The payment is intended to allow the receiving spouse to maintain a reasonably similar lifestyle to the one they had when married, assuming the paying spouse has the financial ability to do the same. It is a broad definition, since this maintenance payment can be short-term or long-term and the amount of the payment is determined on a case-by-case basis.
How is spousal maintenance decided?
This is one of the most common questions about the process, so I’ll go into some detail to answer it. The courts in Minnesota will decide spousal maintenance based on several financial and lifestyle factors. Here are some of the most common:
Length of the marriage – This is an easy one. In general, the longer a couple has been together, the more financially codependent they have the opportunity to be. If a woman quits her job to be a housewife but is married for only a year or two before divorcing, she is less likely to need prolonged spousal maintenance than someone who has been married for 25 years.
Income of the spouses – Another fairly straightforward factor. If one spouse needs support to maintain a reasonable quality of life and the other spouse has the money to pay, spousal support is more likely to be considered. If neither spouse will be considered financially comfortable after the divorce, it’s less likely that the court will insist payments be made.
Individual earning ability of both spouses – Even if one spouse isn’t currently working, could he or she reenter the workforce relatively easily? Would he or she earn enough to support a reasonable lifestyle? The courts look at the age of the spouses relative to their ability to reenter the workforce, whether they have any professional skills, and their level of education when answering these questions.
Misconduct perpetrated by either spouse which led to the breakdown of the marriage – In other words, if a spouse has committed adultery multiple times during their marriage, refused couple’s counseling, and is filing for divorce, it may not be feasible for them to receive spousal maintenance from their significant other. Some (not all) courts may look at this situation and say you understood the financial risks of ending your marriage prior to your actions.
Can either spouse request spousal support?
Yes, both spouses can request spousal support if they wish. Both won’t receive it, since it is awarded based on income and other financial factors. If you and your divorce attorney for spousal maintenance Edina believe you have a claim to spousal maintenance, it doesn’t matter whether you are the party filing for divorce or responding. Both sides have the opportunity to request spousal maintenance in the initial divorce paperwork.
Can a spousal maintenance order be changed?
In Minnesota, a spousal maintenance order may be changed due to drastic changes in the finances or lifestyle of either party. If the paying spouse faces unforeseen financial hardship, they can file to change the terms of the maintenance agreement, so they won’t be financially disadvantaged by continuing to pay. If the payee receives a promotion or a raise and is making significantly more money, either party can file to adjust or end spousal maintenance for that reason, too.
However, it’s important to note that if you waived your right to spousal maintenance during your divorce, you will not be able to receive it at any point in the future (even if your financial circumstances take a downturn).
When does spousal maintenance end?
Of course, temporary spousal maintenance ends whenever the terms of the award have been fulfilled. That could mean after a set length of time, or after the recipient has secured a stable source of income.
Even a permanent award of spousal maintenance isn’t forever. Spousal maintenance will always end following the death of either party. It will also end if the receiving spouse remarries. In some cases, the court may also consider ending spousal maintenance when the paying party retires.
Spousal maintenance is a very personal topic, and it’s tailored to each couple’s financial circumstances. If you would like more personalized information and guidance from a compassionate yet assertive family law attorney Edina, contact Beth Barbosa to get started on your case.