Support & Modifications

Spousal Maintenance

Spousal support can be one of the most contentious issues to resolve during a divorce. The impact of a spousal maintenance award can have a life-long impact. Whether you are seeking spousal support in a divorce or would like to learn more about modifying an existing order, you are in the right place. At Sheridan, Dulas & Kins, P.A., we will sit down with you, talk about your situation, and help you chart the best path forward.

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Spousal Support Overview

What Is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is the periodic payments from the future income or earnings of one spouse that are paid for the support and maintenance of the other spouse.

Spousal maintenance is one of the most difficult issues to determine in a divorce. Unlike child support, spousal maintenance is not decided by a formula. Rather, judges are afforded significant discretion to decide the issue based on eight statutory factors.

No two situations or divorce cases are identical, and the result of each case will be different. At Sheridan, Dulas & Kins, P.A., we will sit down with you to discuss your specific situation and how spousal support may impact your divorce.

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Support Eligibility

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, you must:

1. Lack sufficient property, including all marital property divided in the divorce, to provide for “reasonable needs” and meet their marital standard of living.

2. 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.

No two situations or divorce cases are identical, and the result of each case will be different. At Sheridan, Dulas & Kins, P.A., we will sit down with you to discuss your specific situation and how spousal support may impact your divorce.

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Factors Affecting Spousal Support

Spousal maintenance is not calculated according to a pre-determined formula. Instead, the issue is determined by a judge who considers eight statutory factors. These factors are specific to each case, and may include:

Earning Capacity

The court will consider whether a party seeking maintenance requires time to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and whether in doing so that individual would become fully or partially self-supporting

Financial Resources

After dividing marital property, what will the total assets and financial resources look like for the spouse who is seeking support? If they have a large number of assets that generate income, the court will consider the income generated by the property in determining whether to award spousal maintenance and the amount of maintenance.

Length Of Marriage

The court may consider the length of the marriage and, in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience have become outmoded and earning capacity has become permanently diminished. Minnesota law does not establish a mandatory minimum for the duration of the marriage but it is a factor the court must consider.

Loss Of Earning Potential

For the party seeking spousal maintenance, the court must consider the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities forgone during the marriage.

Standard Of Living

The court may also consider the standard of living that the spouse enjoyed 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.

Ability To Pay

The court will also want to answer questions, such as whether the requesting spouse needs the money to meet their reasonable monthly living expenses, and whether the other spouse have the financial assets and ability to actually pay the requested amount.

Age & Health

The age and health of both spouses may also factor into a judge's decision, as these factors can influence the earning potential and employability of the individual seeking spousal support.

Contributions To Marital Property

The court may further consider the contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property. This specifically includes a spouse’s contribution as a homemaker or in furtherance of the other party’s employment or business.

Methods of Resolving Spousal Maintenance

There are a number of creative methods to resolve the cash flow issues that warrant the establishment of spousal maintenance. It is the parties, their resources, the relevant statutory factors, and future goals and plans that determine what approach is most suitable.

For example, you may settle on permanent spousal maintenance or temporary spousal maintenance. The issue of spousal support can also be reserved, denied, or waived.

In addition, there may be a spousal maintenance buyout, in which one spouse is awarded additional property in place of ongoing support. This form of support is typically paid out as one lump sum.

It’s important to note that, in Minnesota law, parties can agree to divest the court of jurisdiction from modifying a spousal maintenance obligation, such agreements are typically referred to as Karon Waivers. If this agreement is included in the final Judgment and Decree, neither party will be able 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 approve the Karon Waiver.

Can Spousal Support Be Modified?

Spousal support is generally modifiable in Minnesota if the party requesting the modification can show a substantial change in circumstances rendering the current order unreasonable or unfair.

Clients seek our help with a spousal support modification because they are unhappy with the way spousal maintenance was resolved during their divorce. In some cases, clients may have gone through the divorce without the assistance of an attorney, or hired an attorney that was unable to clearly communicate the impact a spousal maintenance award would have on their financial situation moving forward.

If you are seeking a modification, the first thing we will do is look at the facts of your divorce. This information should be reflected in the divorce judgment and decree. We will then have a conversation about what has changed since the divorce. Maybe you are looking to terminate a spousal maintenance obligation or increase the monthly payment you receive. Or perhaps the receiving spouse has since become self-sufficient. Whatever the case may be, our next step is to fill in any information gaps that would prevent your case from being successful.

To move your case forward, we would prepare a motion and request a modification retroactive to the date of service of the motion. Once we have a pending motion, we will then be able to begin formal discovery to get the information we need to determine if there has been a required change in circumstances.

Once we have all of the puzzle pieces in place, we can then look at the language used in the judgment and decree to determine what a potential spousal support modification would look like for your specific situation.

Can I Terminate Spousal Maintenance?

If you are retiring and are looking for a way to terminate spousal maintenance, there are several creative options that may be available to you. This is a conversation you should have with your attorney early on, at least a year in advance of your planned retirement, to make sure that you are prepared and in a position to start a “good faith” retirement.

At Sheridan, Dulas & Kins, P.A., we would begin collecting documents, reviewing retirement benefits, and social security payments. Depending on your situation, we may take a more practical approach to terminate spousal support payments, such as a lump sum payment that functions as a spousal maintenance buyout. This approach eliminates any uncertainty regarding future payments and frees you to retire without a monthly support payment. You can eliminate additional court fees, attorney fees, and any other headaches that accompany ongoing modifications.

Of course, this may not be appropriate in every case. In order to learn more about the options available to you, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your specific situation and goals.

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Get The Legal Help You Need Today

If you are seeking to modify an existing spousal support order, or would like to learn more about your right to receive, or responsibility to pay, spousal support as the result of a divorce decree, we are here to help. Together, we can look at your situation and have a candid conversation about how the law may be applied in your case. You will feel empowered to make the best decisions for you and for your family.

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Butterflies can't see their wings. They can't see how utterly amazing and beautiful they really are. But everyone else can. I believe you are like that as well. Your humility makes you shine and "fly with grace" in your practice, how you carry yourself, and by the words you choose so wisely. Thank you, DeAnne, for helping me along the way. Using kindness and words of wisdom has helped me let go so I can be free.


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Everything you need to know about modification of child support or spousal maintenance

Everything you need to know about modification of child support or spousal maintenance

Both child support and spousal maintenance are based on income. But what happens if your income changes? To learn more about making changes to child support and spousal maintenance awards, check out our blog.

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