Decades ago, most married couples in Minnesota consisted of a husband who earned the family income and a stay-at-home wife who took care of the home and children. When these couples divorced, the ex-husband was typically ordered to pay alimony to allow the ex-wife to maintain the lifestyle to which she was accustomed.
Those days are long gone, of course. Two-income households are the norm in Minnesota and around the country. But, alimony still has a purpose. It is especially important when one spouse has put an education or career on hold to care for the children, in order that the other spouse could pursue a career. When a couple in this situation divorces, the spouse who stayed at home to help the other spouse often feels some anxiety about re-entering the workforce and supporting themselves. Minnesota's alimony laws are designed in part to address situations like this, by providing for an award of alimony sufficient to allow the stay-at-home spouse to get the education or training necessary to regain financial independence.
Alimony laws continue to change with the times. This year the Minnesota Legislature passed an alimony reform law which affects the rights of alimony payers and recipients when the recipient co-habits with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Understanding the provisions of this new law will be critical for many divorced people in Minnesota who are paying or receiving alimony.
When spousal support is essential for a divorcing spouse to become financially independent, it is important for that spouse to understand their legal rights and how to assert them in the divorce proceeding. For those obligated to pay alimony, understanding when they have grounds to seek a modification is similarly essential.