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A Hutchinson Divorce Lawyer Explains MN Alimony Rules

by | Mar 28, 2019 | Alimony, Family Law, Firm News

Spousal support is probably the most controversial divorce issue. The financial aspect is only part of the story. What makes these issues so difficult is that people on both sides have extremely strong feelings. So, it’s often difficult even for experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyers to resolve these disputes.

At the heart of it all, there is a dispute over the nature of spousal support. Should it be a way to redistribute income and equalize the standard of living between the divorced spouses, or should it be a way to help the obligee spouse become economically self-sufficient?

Minnesota law toes the line between these two philosophies. The judge may award alimony if one spouse has an economic need or one spouse lacks sufficient income and property to approximate the standard of living during the marriage.

To flesh out these principles, Hutchinson divorce lawyers use an ongoing process that goes through several stages.

Determining Income and Assets

Typically, divorce is a slow fade. The parties anticipate a marriage dissolution long before either the husband or wife retains a Hutchinson divorce attorney. So, if one spouse (usually the husband) wants to conceal income or assets from the other spouse (usually the wife), there is plenty of opportunity to do so.

If you suspect your husband may be taking such action, perhaps because of a conversation you had, there are some red flags to look for, including:

  • Mail with unfamiliar corporate or business addresses,
  • Sudden drops in account balances,
  • Bank and other e-mail alerts that stop coming, and
  • Changes in take-home pay.

That last bullet is probably the most common way to hide money. Mike could voluntarily increase his tax withholding or 401(k) contributions, claim he cannot afford to pay substantial alimony, and then get the money back later.

The Mikes of the world think they can get away with it, but there is an amended W-2, payroll deduction authorization, or other smoking gun somewhere. A diligent Hutchinson divorce lawyer knows how to find these things. They usually turn up during the discovery period.

If you see any of this evidence, do not confront your spouse. He will just deny it and go underground. If that happens, it will be harder for a Hutchinson divorce lawyer to find the aforementioned smoking gun.

Determining the Amount and Duration of Payments

In some states, such as neighboring Illinois, spousal support amount is like child support amount. There is a mathematical formula in the law. But McLeod County family law judges use a subjective approach that takes a number of factors into account, including:

  • Requesting spouse’s economic need,
  • Duration of the marriage,
  • Relative age, health, education, and employment background of each party,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Obligor spouse’s ability to pay, and
  • The “homemaker factor.”

Most of these factors are self-explanatory, but that last bullet needs some further explanation. Many spouses sacrifice career advancement to become a caregiver. That could be quitting a job and becoming a stay-at-home parent or turning down a promotion because it would mean long hours at work. So, this factor could be very significant or almost meaningless.

These same factors often apply to the duration of alimony payments. Largely depending on the requesting spouse’s economic need, a judge may order one of the following:

  • Temporary Alimony: When the marriage formally breaks up, some spouses need help with Hutchinson divorce lawyer fees, relocation expenses, daycare deposits, and other such costs. Temporary alimony gives the spouse the money needed to meet these expenses. This kind of alimony automatically terminates when the judge signs the decree.
  • Short-Term Alimony: The most common type of spousal support gives people the time and resources they need to finish a degree or accept a low-paying job and get back into the workforce. Both the amount and duration of payments are subjective and subject to modification, as outlined below.
  • Long-Term Alimony: The rarest type of spousal support is only available if the marriage lasted at least ten years. Furthermore, the requesting spouse must be unable to obtain economic self-sufficiency or have custody of a minor disabled child.

Typically, the parties settle alimony and other issues out of court. This approach decreases legal fees, ends the matter more quickly, and gives the parties more control over the outcome.

How Do Hutchinson Divorce Lawyers Modify Alimony Orders?

Circumstances change for both obligors and obligees. If the change is material and substantial, a motion to modify the amount and/or duration of payments may be successful.

Financial-based modifications are often straightforward. As a rule of thumb, if the obligor’s income changed by more than 10 percent, that’s usually a material and substantial change. The change must also be involuntary. Obligors cannot voluntarily leave high-paying jobs to avoid paying alimony.

Lifestyle-based modifications are sometimes tricky, and remarriage modifications are a good example. If the obligor or obligee begins a long-term, supportive relationship with another person, a McLeod County family law judge could alter the amount or duration of payments. This grounds for modification is somewhat vague, so your Hutchinson divorce lawyer must be very assertive.

Judges apply the same factors listed above when they reset the amount and duration of payments. Furthermore, like most divorces, most modifications settle out of court.

Connect with Dedicated Attorneys

From start to finish, alimony is a complex matter. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.