Spousal maintenance, previously called alimony, is an award made by the court in a dissolution or legal separation proceeding that consists of payments made by one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other.
Minnesota family law statutes list a number of factors that are considered in any award of spousal maintenance. Among other considerations, the court looks at the length of the marriage, the health of the parties and their education levels, whether one party has forgone career advancement in order to support the other’s career, each party’s contribution to the marital estate, and the financial resources of the parties.
The process of formal discovery – the disclosure of pertinent facts or documents by the parties to the spousal maintenance proceeding – becomes very important in allocating maintenance. Very often, in a long-term, traditional marriage, one party has much more knowledge of the assets and incomes of the marriage. A fair maintenance arrangement is difficult, if not impossible, to reach unless each party is to produce financial information under oath.
The court will decide whether the maintenance award will be temporary or permanent. The parties can stipulate, or agree on, specific terms within the maintenance provisions, but those stipulations must be fair and equitable, supported by agreements described in the findings and take into account that full disclosure of each party’s financial circumstances has occurred.
When one party’s circumstances have substantially changed – due to remarriage, a new or lost job, etc., modification of maintenance often occurs. There may also be a cost-of-living adjustment built into the maintenance award that requires a periodic update.