What is spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance, or what used to be called alimony, is money one spouse pays to the other spouse for his or her financial needs either as a divorce is taking place or after the divorce is done.  It is important to know that while a spouse may not have money to financially support himself or herself that does not mean that person is automatically entitled to spousal maintenance.

Minnesota Statute Section 518.552 is the statute, or law, that lays out the law on this topic.  A court must first determine if there are grounds for a spouse to get spousal maintenance.  If there are adequate grounds, then the court must determine how much that spouse should get a month and for how long.

1.         Grounds to get spousal maintenance.

Minnesota Statute Section 518.552 states there are two grounds a spouse needing spousal maintenance must prove.  That spouse must prove he or she:

(A)  lacks sufficient property, including marital property to provide for that person’s reasonable needs considering the marital standard of living during the marriage, especially, but not limited to, a period of time for training or education, or

(B)  is unable to provide adequate self-support after considering the marital standard of living and all relevant circumstances.

2.         Amount to receive and length of time it must be paid.

If the spouse can prove one or both of the grounds to get spousal maintenance, then there are eight factors a court must weigh to determine how much that spouse is to receive each month and for how long.  Those factors are:

(A)  the financial resources of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance and that person’s ability to meet his or her needs on his or her own;

(B)  the amount of time necessary for the spouse seeking spousal maintenance to get training or an education to get appropriate employment, and the probability of that spouse completing the training or education, given his or her age and skills, to become fully or partially financially secure;

(C)  the standard of living during the marriage;

(D)  the length of the marriage, in the case of a spouse who did not work during the marriage, the length of time that person has not worked and if any education or skills or experience that are out-of-date thus permanently diminishing that spouse’s ability to financially support himself or herself;

(E)  the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits and other employment opportunities lost during the marriage to the spouse wanting spousal maintenance;

(F)  the aged and physical and emotional needs or issues of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;

(G)  the ability of the spouse who is to pay spousal maintenance needs while paying spousal maintenance to the other spouse; and

(H) the acquisition, preservation, depreciation or appreciation of the assets of the marriage as well as the contribution of the spouse who did not work to help the other spouse’s employment or business.

What does all of this mean?  Spousal maintenance is a complicated issue that should be discussed with a skilled family law attorney.  While you may not believe you are entitled to or you should pay spousal maintenance, it is in your best interests to get as much information as possible about this issue if you anticipate going through a divorce.