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Basics of alimony in a Minnesota divorce

Couples facing divorce in Minnesota have many issues to consider as they decide the best way to move forward. Alimony numbers among top concerns for spouses who worry about having to pay amounts they cannot afford as well as for those who wonder how they will make it financially after the split.

Minnesota law formally refers to alimony as spousal maintenance. Courts have a fairly wide range of discretion as they apply statutory factors to decide whether to award maintenance and to set amounts. Couples may also settle the issue of maintenance through a prenup or a divorce agreement.

Does the requesting spouse qualify for support?

Before getting into specific discussion of amounts and duration, courts determine whether the requesting spouse qualifies to receive alimony at all. The law provides that one can get alimony if one cannot support oneself by working or does not have enough property, including property expected from the divorce, to live at a reasonable standard. Courts also look at the other spouse's ability to pay.

How the court decides maintenance amounts

If a court does decide a requesting spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance, it will then weigh several factors to determine how much the spouse should get and for how long. These factors include the parties' ages and living expenses, the standard of living they established as a couple, their respective incomes and earning potential, the requesting spouse's foreseeable earning potential, the duration of the marriage and the requesting spouse's health situation.

Courts also look at how each party contributed to the marriage and whether the requesting spouse's contribution meant he or she gave up the opportunity to increase earning potential. In some cases, a court may find the requesting spouse needs alimony now but is able to go to school or get job experience that will enable him or her to make more money in a few years. In such a situation, the court will set alimony payments for the time it deems necessary to accomplish this and the expense it will take. In some situations, such as a very long marriage and very low chances of the requesting spouse ever earning a reasonable income, the court may order permanent maintenance.

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