A number of states, including Illinois, have recently changed their spousal support laws. In the Prairie State, alimony determinations are much like child support determinations. Judges use the parties’ income and the length of the marriage to determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments, at least in most cases. But Minnesota’s alimony law is still very subjective. Judges have quite a bit of discretion in this area. These same subjective principles apply in other areas, such as the need for alimony in the first place.
Both obligors (people paying support) and obligees (people receiving support) have substantial legal and financial rights in Minnesota. It’s important than an assertive Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer stands up for these rights, both in the courtroom and at the negotiation table.
Is Spousal Support Appropriate?
In many jurisdictions, judges automatically award alimony in almost all cases. The amount and duration of payments is the only issue. But in Minnesota, there is a presumption that a Wright County family law judge should not award alimony. A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer can rebut that presumption in the following situations:
- Insufficient Property: Under Minnesota law, a divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden for either party. So, if a spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs, alimony payments might be appropriate. In this context, “reasonable needs” usually means a standard of living roughly equivalent to the standard of living during the marriage. This factor often comes into play if the obligor had substantial non-marital property.
- Incapable of Self-Support: Lack of education or job experience generally does not render one incapable of self-support. These deficiencies can be addressed. A physical, mental, emotional, or other medical disability, however, probably does make the spouse incapable of earning enough money to meet reasonable needs.
- Custody of Minor Disabled Child: The disability must be so severe that the child is incapable of living independently. There is sometimes a difference between inability to achieve self-sufficiency and unwillingness to do so. If the child is disabled to the extent that s/he requires constant care, the case for alimony is stronger.
Generally, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must prove alimony eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.
Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Duration of Payments
Some judges award temporary alimony. Such payments are for spouses who need help meeting divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property rental deposits. To obtain temporary alimony, a Buffalo, MN lawyer must normally show the spouse lacks the means to pay these expenses. The case for alimony is weaker if the obligee was the filing spouse. These obligees cannot claim they were blindsided by the divorce.
Temporary support is subject to modification. These payments automatically terminate when a Wright County judge finalizes the divorce.
Short-term maintenance is the most common type of spousal support in Minnesota. As mentioned, many obligees need to “get on their feet” before they can meet their own reasonable needs. If the obligee has a specific rehabilitation plan, such as finishing school, the case for alimony is stronger. If not, the case for alimony is weaker.
Judges set specific ending dates for short-term support. Some judges use the length of the marriage (e.g. ten years of support payments following a ten-year marriage). Others assign a reasonable period based on the rehabilitation plan. If the obligee needs more support, the obligee can file a motion to extend payments.
A few judges still award long-term alimony, usually if the obligee has custody of a severely disabled child. These payments might also be available if the obligee is seriously disabled. “Long term” is not synonymous with “forever.” There is usually an end date. It’s just normally further out in the future.
Amount of Payments in Wright County
To determine the specific length, as well as the amount of payments, most Wright County judges consider the following factors:
- Obligee’s financial need,
- Amount of time needed for the obligee to achieve self-sufficiency,
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Length of the relationship,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the “homemaker” factor),
- Relative age, health, and education of each spouse, and
- Obligor’s ability to pay.
A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must also be mindful of these factors during settlement negotiations. Almost all marriage dissolutions settle out of court. However, a Wright County judge is unlikely to approve the settlement if it does not result in a just and right division of the marital estate.
Reach Out to Compassionate Attorneys
Alimony is usually, but not always, part of a divorce settlement. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.