Spousal Maintenance and Returning to Work

There are many aspects of a person’s life that shift during divorce. One major point of contention that comes to mind when thinking about divorce is finances, more specifically how each party will support their new household.  Often, one party has stayed at home for a majority of the marriage while the other built their career. Spousal Maintenance is awarded when; “a party shows sufficient, reasonable need. Spousal maintenance is appropriate when the requesting spouse lacks sufficient property or is otherwise unable to provide adequate self-support for his or her reasonable needs in light of the standard of living established during the marriage” Vervoort-Smith v. Smith, No. A09-1405, 2010 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 901, at *1 (Aug. 31, 2010). Furthermore, there are eight factors that contribute to the court’s determination of an appropriate amount of spousal maintenance. Those factors include: the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, the standard of living during the parties’ marriage, the duration of the marriage, the contribution of both parties to the preservation of the martial property, and the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his or her needs while also meeting those of the requesting spouse. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2 (2016). (For a breakdown of those factors and an explanation of equalizing income, see previous blog from June 6, 2022).

Spousal Maintenance Calculations

Spousal Maintenance calculations often hinge, in part, on the party seeking support’s ability to gain appropriate employment. Appropriate employment is classified as; the adequate amount of time to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the probability of employment, given the party’s age and skills, and ability to becoming fully or partially self-supporting after gaining employment. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 518.552 (LexisNexis, Lexis Advance through May 11, 2022).

Imputing Potential Income

While the Court cannot force you to gain employment after a divorce, the amount of Spousal Maintenance ordered by the court may not be enough to make ends meet. So, although it may not be the ideal situation after a divorce, both parties may be required to work even though only one party worked prior to the divorce.  In some cases, a vocational evaluation of a potential Spousal Maintenance recipient can be helpful to determine the amount of maintenance required, if any, after the divorce. Every situation is different, and each order for Spousal Maintenance is different. As previously noted, there are multiple factors that can be attributed to requiring a spouse to return to work. A person’s age and the amount of time required to gain employment factor heavily into the court’s decision-making process, “But where there is some uncertainty as to the necessity of a permanent award, the court shall order a permanent award leaving its order open for later modification. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 3 (2006). The statute requires that a district court order permanent maintenance if the court is uncertain that the spouse seeking maintenance can ever become self-supporting” McCarney v. Hartleben, No. A08-0013, 2009 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 182, at *1 (Feb. 17, 2009).

Returning to Work and Children

Even when there is no uncertainty regarding whether a party can gain adequate employment, that party still may not return to work immediately, because many individuals put off career ambitions to take care of children. After a divorce, the amount a Spousal Maintenance awarded may be initially calculated based on the duration of time that children will still be at home and in the care of a parent. For example, if a child is three years old, an increased Spousal Maintenance award could be given for the duration of time that the child is at home.  The amount of Spousal Maintenance may be decreased at a later date.  This is often referred to in family law as a “step-down.”

At Lake Harriet Law, we work diligently for each client to obtain the best possible settlement.  If you are considering a divorce, contact our team to begin designing a legal strategy to protect your future.

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

Lottie James – Student Attorney                         612-223-8925

Claire Paulsen – Student Attorney                      612-223-8925

Becca Favre – Student Attorney                          612-223-8925

Madeline Woodward – Student Attorney         612-223-8925

Melissa Rezzag – Student Attorney                    612-223-8925

Published On: August 1, 2022Categories: Family Law Updates

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