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Calculating spousal support after divorce

It's the center of celebrities' jokes, the target of reform and the cause of many divorce disputes. Whatever your stance on alimony (also called spousal support and spousal maintenance), the issue may come up during your divorce.

Whether you expect to pay or receive alimony after parting ways with your spouse, it can be helpful to know what factors the court will consider when awarding alimony. There are three factors that Minnesota courts require before granting spousal maintenance:

  • One party must need spousal maintenance.
  • The other party must be financially able to pay it.
  • The marriage must have lasted long enough to establish entitlement. Typically, marriages lasting fewer than five years will not qualify for spousal support.

Granted that all three conditions are satisfied, the court will make an alimony determination. There is no surefire way to predict the court's decision but most judges consider:

  • Each spouse's income and earning capacity. This includes not only current income, but each party's potential for future earnings. For example, if one spouse has custody of the children, he or she may not be able to work full-time or earn as much money. Similarly, if one spouse is projected to earn much more money, the amount of alimony he or she pays may increase.
  • Standard of living during the marriage. A judge may consider what life was like during the marriage when determining alimony. Spouses become accustomed to a certain standard of living and courts may attempt to maintain that in support determinations.
  • Length of the marriage. Longer marriages are more likely to end with larger alimony awards. For traditional marriages lasting at least 25 years, Minnesota courts may grant permanent alimony.

Even permanent maintenance determinations can be changed, however. Changes in living situation, income and marital status can prompt a reevaluation of spousal support. It is best to speak with a qualified family law attorney to fight for the fairest possible support arrangement during the end of your marriage.

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