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Alimony in Minnesota

Alimony in Minnesota

By Maury D. Beaulier, Esq.

Alimony Index: (Click on a Topic)

Alimony Overview
Current Spousal Maintenance Law
Awards, Denials & Modifications of Spousal Maintenance
Waivers of Spousal Maintenance
Spousal Maintenance Buy-Outs
Imputing Income and Alimony to an Unemployed Obligor
Tax Consequence of Alimony
Vocational Evaluations
How To Present Your Spousal Maintenance Case


"Alimony" is the term used in many states for financial support paid to a ex-spouse after a divorce. In Minnesota the term "alimony" has been replaced with the term "Spousal Maintenance." The terms are synonymous. In some states, an award of alimony may be based on marital fault. As a result, issues such as dating, infidelity or even abuse are not factors considered in determining whether to award spousal maintenance.

Minnesota, however, is a "no fault" divorce state. As a result, issues such as dating, infidelity or even abuse are not factors considered in determining whether to award spousal maintenance. As recent as 1984, Minnesota Statutes relating to awards of spousal maintenance were interpreted by the Minnesota Courts of Appeal as disfavoring awards of permanent spousal maintenance. At that time, in order for the Court to award permanent spousal maintenance, it had to find that exceptional circumstances existed warranting an award of permanent financial support. To demonstrate that an exceptional case existed, the party seeking the award of permanent maintenance had to show that he/she had little likelihood of becoming self-sufficient.

Current Law

Since 1984 Minnesota Statues have been modified by the state legislature to favor permanent spousal maintenance awards when certain circumstances exist. In 1985 amendments to Minnesota Statutes modified the spousal maintenance statute to require trial courts to consider the standard of living established during the marriage when awarding spousal maintenance. The 1985 amendments also added language requiring an award of permanent spousal maintenance where there is uncertainty regarding the need for a permanent award. In short, if there was any question whether permanent spousal maintenance was necessary, that uncertainty was to be resolved in favor of a permanent spousal maintenance award.

Unlike Minnesota's child support statutes, there are no percentage guidelines to determine when spousal maintenance is appropriate or at what level. In Minnesota, trial courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to award maintenance and in determining its duration and amount. As a result, spousal maintenance often becomes one of the most contested issues in divorce proceedings.

Currently, spousal maintenance awards are granted pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 518.552 if the spouse seeking maintenance demonstrates that he or she:

  1. lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned as part of the divorce to provide for the reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage, especially, but not limited to, a period of training or education; or
  2. is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstance, through appropriate employment, or
  3. is the custodian of a child whose condition and circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.

In determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, Minnesota statutes require that Courts address all relevant factors. The statute specifically identifies the following as relevant issues in determining spousal maintenance:

  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance;
  • The amount of time that is necessary for the spouse seeking maintenance to acquire necessary skills or education to find appropriate employment;
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the recipient spouse;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • The contribution and economic sacrifices of a homemaker including loss of seniority, retirement benefits and other employment opportunities foregone while working at home
  • The financial resources available to the spouse from whom maintenance is sought.

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