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How Do Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys Set Alimony Payments?

by | Oct 29, 2019 | Alimony, Family Law, Firm News

Many states, including nearby Illinois, have substantially revamped their spousal support laws in recent years. To set the amount and duration of payments, judges in these jurisdictions follow mathematical formulas as opposed to subjective factors. So, alimony is more like child support.

But despite a wave of reform in 2017, Minnesota spousal support laws are still basically the same. Subjective factors determine the amount and duration of alimony payments. This reform only tweaked the rules regarding continued alimony and remarriage.

Minnesota law has an additional twist. Alimony is not always a part of a divorce decree. The requesting spouse must first establish the need for spousal support. Even then, an award is optional. The statute clearly says that the judge “may” grant alimony.

So, whether you want to maximize or minimize spousal support payments, aggressive representation from a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome.

The Spousal Support Presumption

Essentially, there s a presumption that alimony is inappropriate in Minnesota. To overcome this presumption, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney must present sufficient evidence on one of the two following points:

  • Lack of property sufficient to provide for the spouse’s reasonable needs, or
  • A disability that makes full-time employment impossible or impractical.

In both these situations, the standard of living during the marriage is relevant. Either a judge’s order or an agreed property settlement must divide debt and assets in such a way that the divorce is not an unfair financial burden for either party.

To overcome the no-alimony presumption, most Buffalo, MN family law attorneys focus on the second bullet point mentioned above. “Disability” does not just mean a physical condition. That disability could also be a lack of education or a lack of job skills. Furthermore, the disability need not be personal. For example, if Wife has custody of a minor disabled child, Wife may be unable to work outside the home. This example is mentioned in 518.552(1)(b).

To rebut this evidence and reimpose the no-alimony presumption, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney could dispute either the “disability” portion or the “reasonable needs” prong.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and the Types of Alimony

Disabilities are usually not permanent. That’s especially true for child custody disabilities and employability disabilities. So, there are basically three types of spousal support in Wright County:

  • Temporary Maintenance: Many spouses need help with divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees. If the obligor has the means to provide such assistance, temporary alimony is usually appropriate. In other cases, there is a significant post-divorce income discrepancy between the two spouses. That’s especially true if one spouse was the “caregiver” and the other one was the “breadwinner.”
  • Short-Term Maintenance: This type of alimony is basically a continuation of temporary maintenance. Some spouses need additional money to finish a degree or meet other short-term expenses. Other spouses must accept low-paying jobs to merge back into the workforce.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: If the marriage lasted more than ten years or the obligee spouse has a permanent disability, long-term maintenance may be in order.

Generally, a judge will entertain a motion to modify the amount and/or duration of payments if financial circumstances materially and substantially change for either party. The change must have been unanticipated at the time of divorce, so the obligor’s retirement does not necessarily mandate a modification. Additionally, as mentioned, the Legislature recently broadened the rules in terms of the obligee’s remarriage. Now, if the obligee is in a financially supportive and semi-permanent relationship, that relationship may be sufficient to terminate alimony payments.

Spousal Support Amount Factors

These factors basically come from two sources. First, the Legislative Coordinating Commission Office on the Economic Status of Women published some guidelines on this issue in 2014. However, these figures have not been updated in quite some time.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the spousal support statute lists a number of factors which are relevant in this area. Some notable ones include:

  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Obligor’s ability to pay,
  • Amount of time and effort the obligee needs to become economically self-sufficient,
  • Obligee’s overall economic need,
  • Relative age, health, and employability of each spouse, and
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the homemaker effect).

If any of these factors change, mostly the obligee’s need or the obligor’s ability, a judge may modify the amount or duration of payments.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer

Alimony is usually, but not always, a component of a Wright County divorce decree. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.