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Minnesota divorce law

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Spousal Maintenance in Minnesota

What is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance, perhaps better known as “alimony” or “spousal support,” is sometimes awarded as part of a divorce decree or legal separation agreement. Unlike child support, spousal maintenance is not governed by strict statutory guidelines; it is not required under the law, and both the duration and amount of any award is determined by the presiding judge. Spousal maintenance was historically awarded almost exclusively to women, but, as the saying goes, “the times, they are a-changing.” Now the support goes to whichever spouse, regardless of gender, who needs it.
Why is Spousal Support Awarded?
Spousal maintenance awards in Minnesota are governed by the provisions set forth in § 518.552 of the Minnesota statutes. This law provides that support can be granted if the court finds that the spouse seeking it:
·         lacks sufficient property, including marital property given to the spouse as pat of the divorce decree or legal separation agreement, to maintain an approximation of the standard of living established during the marriage OR
·         is unable to provide for themselves through appropriate employment OR
·         is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make employment outside of the home inappropriate or impossible.
How Does the Court Determine the Amount of an Award and its Duration?
The court relies upon a number of statutory factors to decide upon the amount payable and how long such payments are to last. When making the decision to award alimony or note, family court judges must consider all the following factors:
·         the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance;
·         the time necessary to acquire sufficient education and/or training to reenter the workforce;
·         the probability, given the party's age and skills, of becoming self-supporting, whether fully or in part;
·         the standard of living established during the marriage;
·         the duration of the marriage;
·         in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment;
·         if one party has been out of the workforce for a substantial length of time, how that time impacts the value of any prior education, skills, or experience;
·         any loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits and other employment opportunities forgone by the spouse seeking the support;
·         the age, health and emotional condition of the party seeking maintenance;
·         the ability of the paying spouse to meet his or her own needs while helping support the one seeking maintenance;
·         the contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property AND
·         the effort expended by one spouse as a homemaker or while encouraging the other party's employment or business ventures.
The duration of an award is essentially at the judge’s discretion after due consideration has been given to all of these factors. Maintenance can be temporary and rehabilitative in nature, designed to give the supported spouse necessary time to reenter the workforce. It could also be permanent, should the court decide that the spouse seeking it has little or no chance of ever being self-supporting.
Does the “Fault” of Either Party Affect a Spousal Maintenance Award?
Minnesota is now one of many “no-fault” divorce states. Courts no longer require a showing that one party has somehow breached the marital contract in order to dissolve the marriage. Prior to the adoption of the current guidelines for granting a divorce or legal separation, as set forth in § 518.06 of the Minnesota statutes, the court could consider certain defenses (such as adultery, insanity, abuse, alienation of affection, connivance or recrimination) to the granting of a divorce decree. Now the courts need only determine that there are irreconcilable differences between the parties.
There are no statutory provisions that allow for any of the previously accepted defenses against a divorce action to be applied in a proceeding for spousal maintenance. Judges could, however, logically consider certain actions of one party as affecting the mental or physical condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; this is a recognized factor in the determination of a spousal support award.
If you are considering divorce, you may have questions regarding whether to seek spousal maintenance. To learn more about how spousal support could possibly fit into your divorce decree, consult an attorney well-versed in Minnesota family law.
Article provided by Kathleen M. Newman & Associates, P.A. Please visit our Web site at www.kathynewmanlaw.com.

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