In some situations, spousal support is either strictly limited or completely unavailable. Many prenuptial agreements include alimony caps. It is difficult, but not impossible, to unilaterally overturn these agreements in court. Moreover, there is a presumption against alimony in Minnesota. Under Section 518.552, Wright County judges may only make such orders in limited circumstances. More on that below.
Yet in most divorce cases, alimony is an essential component of an equitable property division. And, the judge has a great deal of discretion when setting the amount and duration of payments. So, an assertive Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually obtain spousal support payments, based on the obligee’s need and the obligor’s ability.
Setting the Duration of Payments
Section 518.552 contains exemptions for both short and long-term support payments. Subdivision 1(a) states that alimony is available to “provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage,” particularly if the divorce includes “a period of training or education.” This provision gives rise to two types of alimony:
- Temporary Alimony: Some spouses need additional funds to meet divorce-related expenses, such as daycare costs and attorneys’ fees. A Buffalo, MN family law attorney can often obtain such support, especially if the obligee spouse is the non-filing spouse. Temporary alimony automatically terminates when a Wright County judge signs the final marriage dissolution order.
- Short-Term Alimony: The aforementioned education or training period often extends beyond the period of separation. For example, many people are several years short of a degree, or they must accept a low-paying job to merge back into the workforce. Most judges will award alimony payments for two or three years in these situations.
In other cases, the Subdivision 1(b) exemption applies. This provision makes alimony available on a long-term basis if the obligee spouse cannot “provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances,” due to:
- An employment hardship, such as a mental, physical, or emotional disability, or
- The custody of a special-needs child.
Since health conditions change over time and children grow up, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney may be able to modify this obligation at a later date.
Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and the Amount of Alimony Payments
Many states, including nearby Illinois, tie the duration of payments to objective items, such as the length of the marriage. But Minnesota law is very subjective in this area. The same thing applies to the duration of payments. If the judge feels that, based on the evidence, spousal support is appropriate, the amount must be based on factors including:
- Obligee’s financial need,
- Obligor’s available financial resources,
- Custody of minor children,
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Economic contributions to the marriage,
- Agreements between the parties,
- Relative age, health, and education of each spouse, and
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage.
The “agreements” bullet may be the most important point. As discussed above, most judges uphold agreements between the spouses, as long as both spouses had an independent Buffalo, MN family law attorney throughout the process.
Modifying Spousal Support Payments
Financial needs change over time. That’s especially true in 1(a) cases. The amount of financial resources changes over time as well. Such alterations often affect 1(b) alimony awards.
Generally, if any of these circumstances permanently change in a way that was not anticipated at the time of divorce, a judge may modify the amount and/or duration of payments. Additionally, the changed circumstances must normally be involuntary, at least to an extent. Obligors cannot voluntarily quit lucrative jobs to reduce their spousal support obligations. Similarly, obligees cannot neglect opportunities to become self-sufficient.
Retirement and remarriage are often issues in modification matters. While retirement certainly constitutes changed financial circumstances, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney could argue that it was an anticipated change. People grow older and often retire. If the obligor accepted a voluntary early retirement package, this argument is even stronger.
Generally, remarriage terminates alimony obligations. But many Buffalo, MN family law attorneys argue that a long-term, mutually-supportive financial relationship is tantamount to a marriage. Most judges are willing to look at the totality of the circumstances to determine if modification is appropriate in these cases.
Connect with an Experienced Lawyer
Most Minnesota marriage dissolutions include alimony obligations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.