During a Minnesota divorce proceeding, the court may order that one spouse pay alimony (or what Minnesota refers to as spousal maintenance) to the other spouse. The primary reason for spousal maintenance is to provide cash flow to a spouse in order to approximate the marital standard of living. However, determining the amount (and duration) of spousal maintenance can be a vexing task. The applicable Minnesota Statute involving spousal maintenance is Minn. Stat. 518.552, specifically subdivision 2(b).
In determining the appropriateness of a spousal maintenance award under Minn.Stat. § 518.552, the district court may consider a maintenance recipient’s prospective ability to become fully or partially self-supporting without making a finding that the recipient has acted in bad faith to remain unemployed or underemployed. Passolt v. Passolt, 804 N.W.2d 18 (Minn. Ct. App. 2011).
Underemployment and Spousal Maintenance
A vocational evaluation is important is when one spouse who is ordered (or will be ordered) to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse alleges that s(he) cannot pay the maintenance. A vocational evaluation is also useful when a spouse who will be a recipient of spousal maintenance accepts employment (or anticipated employment) at a price point less than what is reasonable based on education and work history. An experienced vocational evaluator can properly determine that the spouse is underemployed (sometimes by more than as 100% of current base income) and qualifies for a much higher-paying job. The court can use the paying spouse’s earning capacity to calculate spousal maintenance rather than the projected lower income. See Aaker v. Aaker, 447 N.W.2d 607 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989). If a spouse has retired at an appropriate age (based on profession) it is improper for a court to impute income to that spouse based on his or her pre-retirement earnings. We see this in our cases from time-to-time, and it represents an emotionally based (instead of a data based) legal argument.
Highly Experienced Minneapolis Divorce Law Firm
Located in the historic Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, Lake Harriet Law Office, LLC Attorneys Randall A. Smith and Amber C. Bretl provide outstanding legal representation exclusively in the areas of Divorce and Family Law.
Lake Harriet Law Office represents clients in Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, Golden Valley, Hopkins, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, Linden Hills, Plymouth, Maple Grove, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, St. Paul, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Anoka County, St. Louis Park and Scott County.
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Randall A. Smith – Managing Attorney 612-750-4843
Amber C. Bretl – Associate Attorney 612-223-8925