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Spousal Maintenance in Minnesota
I. Initial Spousal Maintenance Awards
Spousal maintenance awards can be difficult to predict, because there are no Guidelines, as with child support, and both the amount and duration of an award of spousal maintenance are within the broad discretion of the trial court.
Essentially, an award of spousal maintenance requires three showings:
Spousal maintenance decisions are based on the following main factors:
Legally the Court is also required to consider the contributions of each party to the marital estate. In practice, however, contributions of each spouse are almost always treated as equal, even if one party did nothing but park himself on the couch and watch TV for 30 years while the working spouse yelled at him every day to quit being a bum and get a job. The prevailing attitude seems to be that since marriage is a partnership, and you didn’t divorce the lazy bum sooner, then you’re stuck with those partnership terms.
From experience, I have observed the following general parameters for spousal maintenance, with the caveat that there are exceptions to all of them:
II. Modification of Spousal Maintenance.
The term "permanent" as applied to spousal maintenance is a misnomer. Even so-called "permanent" spousal maintenance awards may be terminated, suspended, extended in length, or reduced or increased in amount, upon proof of a substantial change of circumstances to justify the modification. In practice, this usually means a substantial increase or decrease in the payor or recipient’s income, although a substantial change in expenses can also justify a modification. Retirement is also a common point in time at which to look at a modification of spousal maintenance, but retirement is not in and of itself a magic ticket to termination of maintenance. The Court will look at all relevant circumstances to assess the reasonableness of the retirement at the time thereof.
The only way to legally prevent future modification of spousal maintenance is for both parties to stipulate to a so-called Karon waiver at the time the award is made. This is a great way to avoid having to return to Court to readdress spousal maintenance every time there is a substantial change of circumstances, but it also locks you in, which can bite both ways depending on what the future holds. It is critical to consult an attorney before proposing or agreeing to any Karon waiver.
* THE INFORMATION IN THIS ARTICLE IS NOT ADVICE FOR YOUR PARTICULAR CASE. ALSO, THIS INFORMATION APPLIES ONLY TO MINNESOTA LAW, AND NOT TO THE LAW OF ANY OTHER STATE OR COUNTRY.
When custody is in dispute, a Minnesota court issues a custody order that is in the "best interests of the child." Joint custody will only be awarded if parents have shown the court that they are willing and able to cooperate. A court also examines several factors with the child's welfare in mind. They include (1) the child's preference, (2) each parent's health, (3) the child's health and whether any special needs exist, (4) each parent's relationship with the child, (5) which parent has been the child's primary caretaker, (6) each parent's ability to provide a stable environment for the child, (7) any history of domestic violence or child abuse and (8) any allegations of abuse.
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