What is Spousal Maintenance?

SPOUSAL MAINTENANCE – also called alimony, is money paid by a spouse or ex-spouse to help the other spouse live, establish or maintain an independent life. Theoretically, there could be alimony in any divorce, but it is most common in longer-term marriages (eight years or more) where there have been children.  Maintenance is much more likely if there is a large difference in the parties’ income and resources.

Spousal maintenance may be permanent, or it may last only a short time. It is closely related to income, earning ability, age, the property and resources each party has and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. The number of factors involved make it necessary to discuss each case individually.

The Minnesota statutes on spousal maintenance are quite vague.  Minnesota Statute 518.552 says the court MAY grant  spousal maintenance IF a spouse “lacks sufficient property…to provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage…” OR  “is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances, through appropriate employment, or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.”

As you may imagine, judges vary in their interpretation of “sufficient”, “reasonable”, “adequate”, “appropriate”, and many of the other words in the statute.  Fortunately, the statute goes on to provide somewhat more guidance in the form of eight considerations.  Unfortunately,  the eight are pretty vague themselves, referring to such things as the age and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance, the length of the marriage, and again to the standard of living established during the marriage, among other things.  There is nothing in the statute that tells any judge specifically how many dollars of spousal maintenance to award for how long.  Contrast this to child support, which is usually determined by a computer program.

There are also a large number of decided cases that help a little, but since every case is different, and since the law changes over the years, there is no certainty.  Spousal maintenance issues can be very difficult.  Call us at 651-639-0313 to talk about your situation.


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