Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) and the Imputation of Income

During a divorce proceeding, and once a divorce is finalized, 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 challenging task for the court.  The applicable Minnesota Statute involving spousal maintenance is Minn. Stat. 518.552, specifically subdivision 2(b).

Spousal Maintenance and Income Imputation

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). 

Benefits of a Vocational Evaluation

There are many reasons why an attorney may request, or a Judge may order, a vocational evaluation be performed on one (or possibly both) of the spouses in a divorce proceeding.  For example, a spouse requesting spousal maintenance may have the ability to work, but is choosing not to secure appropriate employment (we call this “tanking it”).  The other spouse would then request that a vocational evaluation be performed to provide data to support the imputation of income.  An experienced vocational evaluation expert can provide a comprehensive report that gives an opinion regarding income potential for the spouse requesting spousal maintenance.

Underemployment and Spousal Maintenance

Another example of when 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.  An experienced vocational evaluator can properly determine that the spouse is underemployed (sometimes by as much 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).

Highly Experienced Local 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.

Please call 612-750-4843 or complete the Contact Us form to schedule an office consultation.

Randall A. Smith – Managing Attorney    612-750-4843

Amber C. Bretl – Associate Attorney      612-223-8925

Chinyere Okwulehie – Student Attorney

Published On: October 23, 2017Categories: Family Law Updates

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