Spousal Maintenance

Often when couples divorce, there is a substantial difference in the two parties’ earning power and their ability to sustain the same standard of living that both have become accustomed to during the marriage. Minnesota law, therefore, allows for spousal maintenance to ease the lower-earning spouse’s transition. The amount and the duration may vary dramatically depending on each individual situation.

Factors to Consider

When the issue of spousal maintenance goes before a judge, he or she has to consider a variety of factors before determining the amount and duration of maintenance. It may benefit both parties to come to an agreement privately, but negotiations should still take into consideration the same factors, which include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The standard of living achieved during the marriage
  • The age of both parties
  • Any financial or other contributions to the marriage or marital property, including child rearing, homemaking, and any participation in a marital business
  • Any work experience, retirement benefits, etc. that the spouse seeking maintenance has given up to stay at home during the marriage
  • Both parties’ financial ability to sustain the same standard of living
  • How long it will take for the maintenance-seeking spouse to become fully self-supporting

Determining Duration

In Minnesota, spousal maintenance can be awarded on either a temporary or permanent basis. Temporary maintenance is usually determined by the length of the marriage and how long the lesser-earning spouse needs to get back on his or her feet.

Permanent maintenance, on the other hand, is generally awarded only in cases where the marriage has lasted for a long time, and both parties are at or near retirement age, rendering the lesser-earning spouse incapable of ever duplicating the couple’s standard of living by returning to the workforce. For instance, a homemaker who has been married for decades may be coming out of the marriage with little or no work experience.

If you are not sure whether your situation would justify temporary or permanent maintenance, please know that Minnesota law directs the courts to err on the side of permanent maintenance when it’s not clear which is more appropriate.

Modification of Spousal Maintenance

Minnesota courts recognize that what’s appropriate for spousal maintenance now might not be appropriate if your circumstances change significantly. Changes in income and even changes in your cost of living can be grounds for modifying a spousal maintenance order.

There are ways to waive your rights to maintenance, however, or limit both parties’ ability to make modifications at a later date. These waivers are known as Karon waivers. Of course, our St. Paul family law practice recommends consulting with an attorney before signing anything waiving or limiting your rights.

R. Leigh Frost Law

It is helpful for a divorcing couple to come to an agreement on spousal maintenance privately, rather than fighting it out in court, but that doesn’t mean you have to navigate this tricky labyrinth on your own.

Consulting with a family law attorney will ensure that you know your rights before agreeing to or signing anything. For representation you can trust, please contact us today at R. Leigh Frost Law.