Financial support is a crucial consideration in divorce and child custody. It must be calculated in a fair and accurate manner, and it can be a strategic factor in the property settlement and parenting arrangements.
The family law attorneys of Sheridan & Dulas, P.A., are knowledgeable about child support and spousal maintenance, from initial determination to post-decree modifications, appeals and enforcement. They can answer your questions and advocate effectively for you, whether you are paying or receiving support.
Ensuring Child Support Is Calculated Correctly
Child support is presumptively determined by a statutory formula, based on the income of the parents, the number of children and other factors. While this is the primary method by which child support is determined by the Court, many times families need the help of skilled counsel to creatively solve financial problems to make sure that the support is fair to both sides and meets the needs of the children. In those situations, deviations from the statutory formulas is necessary, and it is extremely important that you have experienced advice to avoid the pitfalls that can come with deviations.
Child support problems are not limited to the determination of the obligations of each parent. For example, additional documentation and investigation may be needed when the income of the parents is disputed because one or more of the parents are self-employed or paid in cash, hiding income, or when there is a seasonal or year-to-year fluctuation in their earnings. It is important to remember that the court can impute income when a parent is willfully unemployed or underemployed to avoid support obligations. Having an experienced attorney can make these more difficult circumstances easier to understand and address.
Knowing The Law Is Essential
At Sheridan & Dulas, we understand the child support statutes and how to properly apply the law to make sure support is calculated correctly and fairly. If necessary in more difficult and complicated cases, we can bring in forensic accountants or subpoena bank records to determine true income. We also have experience negotiating child support in cases involving high earners whose income exceeds the Minnesota child support guidelines.
Our attorneys also are involved in modifications of child support, as when the paying spouse is laid off or gets a significant bump in salary, or when there is a change in custody or parenting time. We also counsel clients on their rights and options in paternity actions and child support enforcement.
Fairness And Strategy In Spousal Maintenance (Alimony)
Spousal maintenance, more commonly known as alimony, is the periodic payments from the future income or earnings of one spouse are paid for the support and maintenance of the other spouse. Spousal maintenance is one of the most difficult issues in a divorce. Unlike child support, spousal maintenance is not decided by a formula. Rather, judges are afforded significant discretion to decide the issue.
Our divorce lawyers have extensive experience in family law, including high-asset divorces seeking and defending against an award of spousal maintenance. We can give a sound legal opinion on whether alimony would apply in your case, including the approximate amount and duration if awarded. The court considers many criteria, such as income disparity, length of the marriage, age and health of the spouses, and education or employable skills. We can gauge whether or not these factors trend in your favor and can take appropriate action to argue for or against the award.
Spousal maintenance awards can also be modified or terminated by petitioning the court if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as a job promotion, job loss or remarriage.
Who Qualifies For Spousal Support?
Spousal maintenance laws are gender-neutral. In other words, either spouse may request spousal support as part of the overall divorce settlement. It may be negotiated out of court as part of a settlement, or awarded at the discretion of the court.
Under Minnesota law, however, there are some limitations on qualifying for spousal support. To qualify for spousal support, the requesting spouse must:
- Lack sufficient property, including all marital property divided in the divorce, to provide for their “reasonable needs” and meet their marital standard of living.
- Be unable to provide adequate self-support through employment. Or, the requesting spouse must be the custodial parent of a child whose condition makes it “appropriate” for the custodial parent not to seek employment after the divorce.
As an example for ground A, a spouse who was a stay at home mother may request spousal support from their husband if he was the sole earner, and she lacks the education and career prospects to maintain the same standard of living.
As an example for ground B, the custodial parent of a child with special needs may be awarded spousal support as well as child support, since the complexities of the child’s condition may make it “appropriate” that the parent does not seek employment after the divorce.
These are hypothetical examples, but they do illustrate situations in which a spouse’s request for spousal support may be granted.
No two situations or divorce cases are identical, so it’s important to get guidance from a Minnesota spousal support attorney such as the team at Sheridan & Dulas, P.A. if you believe you qualify for spousal support, and wish to request spousal support as part of the divorce process.
Understanding How Spousal Support Is Calculated In Minnesota
Given the complexity of divorce, there are a lot of different factors that must be considered by the court when calculating spousal support in Minnesota. These factors are specific to each case, and may include:
- The earning capacity of each spouse – For example, if one spouse makes significantly more money than the other or is the sole breadwinner, the spouse with lower income or no income may qualify for more spousal support.
- The total financial resources of the spouse seeking support – After dividing marital property, what will the total assets and financial resources look like for the spouse who is seeking support? If they will have a lot of assets and money, spousal support could be reduced or even refused.
- The length of the marriage – This is particularly important if one spouse is a high earner and the other has stayed at home or put a career on hold to raise children.
- The financial obligations and resources of each party – This includes personal and marital debts owed after a divorce.
- The standard of living during the marriage – A higher standard of living may result in larger spousal support payments from one spouse to the other to preserve that particular standard of living.
- The need for maintenance and the ability to pay – Does the requesting spouse need the money to survive? Will the other spouse have the financial assets and ability to actually pay the requested amount?
- The age and health of both spouses – Age and health is a factor for both parties, as it can influence the earning potential and employability of each spouse.
- The marital conduct of both parties – The specifics of the marriage, why it’s ending, and how each spouse conducted themselves throughout the marriage may be taken into account by the court when determining spousal support.
Depending on the situation, there are a number of other factors that may be taken into account when calculating spousal support in Minnesota. Whether you or your spouse is requesting spousal maintenance. It is important to consult with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney regarding spousal maintenance as the precedence applying the factors are from case law and continue to change.
It is important to work closely with an experienced Minnesota spousal support attorney throughout these proceedings to understand how each factor may affect spousal support payouts and ensure a reasonable, just, and equitable resolution for your case.
Methods of Resolving Spousal Maintenance
There are a number of creative methods to resolving the cash flow issues that warrant the establishment of spousal maintenance. It is the pirates, their resources, the relevant statutory factors, and future goals and plans that determine what approach is most suitable.
|Common Methods of Resolving the Issue of Spousal Maintenance|
|Defined Duration||Monthly Maintenance Payment?||Continuing Jurisdiction(Ability to modify or revisit the issue?)|
|Permanent Spousal Maintenance||No – ongoing obligation until terminating event or future court order||Yes||Yes|
|Temporary Spousal Maintenance||Yes||Yes||Yes -must be made before the obligation expires|
|Temporary Spousal Maintenance subject to a Karon Waiver||Yes||Yes||No – unless a party expressly agrees to restore jurisdiction|
|Reservation||No||No||Yes. Judgment and Decree must expressly state the issue is reserved.|
|Denial or Waiver of Maintenance||No||No||No|
|Spousal Maintenance Buyout (an award of additional property in lieu of Spousal Maintenance)||No||No – generally a lump sum transfer is made||No|
When Spousal Support Can Be Modified
Provided the court continues to have jurisdiction, spousal maintenance may be modified when there has been a substantial change of circumstances that makes the terms of the original order unreasonable and unfair. Whether a change of circumstance is substantial or an order becomes unreasonable and unfair is unique to the case.
In Minnesota, there are grounds that allow for spousal support to be modified.
- Mistakes – Clerical errors or other simple mistakes can be corrected to modify spousal support.
- Satisfaction of the order – Some spousal support orders are set for a certain number of years, or until the requesting spouse obtains a job or completes certain schooling or training. When these conditions are satisfied, the order may be modified or eliminated.
- Major life, health, and relationship changes – If the requesting spouse remarries a high-earning individual, for example, the court may judge that they no longer need or qualify for spousal maintenance due to the support of their new spouse.
However, it’s important to note that, in Minnesota law, a special pre-nuptial or post-nuptial document called a “Karon Waiver” can be signed as part of a spousal support agreement. If this document is signed, both parties waive their right to modify spousal maintenance in the future.
This means that, no matter the circumstances, the details of a spousal support order cannot be modified or overturned. However, it’s important to note that the court must agree to the Karon Waiver, and determine that it’s fair to both parties.
Spousal Maintenance Reform and Other Changes
In recent years, both on the state and federal level, significant changes have been made to the laws governing spousal maintenance. For example, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 ended the tax deduction for spousal maintenance obligations established after December 31, 2018. Despite the changes to the tax treatment of maintenance, a spousal maintenance obligation awarded before January 1, 2019 may continue to be tax deductible, provided the court order satisfies certain requirements.
Even in Minnesota, organizations have successfully lobbied for changes to the law when a recipient of spousal maintenance cohabitates with another adult. If pursuing a claim of spousal maintenance, it is important to have a candid conversation about the likelihood of cohabiting with an adult, whether that person is a significant other or an adult child, parent, or roommate.
Is spousal maintenance available to unmarried individuals ending a long term relation?
Some states have recognized palimony – the equivalent of spousal maintenance for unmarried couples – but Minnesota law expressly prohibits the award of palimony. Unmarried couples who are cohabiting can contract to certain financial obligations to each other but those agreement must be negotiated prior to the end of the relationship.
Contact our office to set up a free, no-obligation consultation. Our family law lawyers practice across the Twin Cities, including Dakota, Washington, Hennepin, Scott, Carver, Ramsey, Goodhue and Anoka counties, and in greater Minnesota.