What will I do if I can’t rely on my spouse’s earnings to meet my living expenses? Good question; and one that any spouse who relies on the earnings of his or her spouse should think about when contemplating a divorce.


Minnesota law allows a family court judge to award spousal maintenance (still commonly known as ‘alimony’) to a spouse who cannot meet his or her reasonable monthly expenses with her or his share of the property received in the divorce, or, who cannot provide adequate ’self-support’. Wow! That’s a lot to consider! After reading this a couple of time, a person might wonder:
1. What is ‘reasonable’ need? Does this mean no more winter vacations in Palm Springs?
2. What is ‘adequate self-support’? So if my ex can prove that SA is hiring, then I can’t get him to pay spousal maintenance?
3. What is considered ‘sufficient property’ to provide for my needs? Do I have to sell my furniture so that I can eat?


Minnesota lawmakers have added some guidance to the laws, to help answer this question. For example, a judge who is asked to consider awarding spousal maintenance, must consider:
1. The ability of the spouse who is asking for maintenance, to make a living;
2. The age and health of the spouse to support himself or herself;
3. The standard of living enjoyed by the spouses during the marriage; and
5. The ability of the spouse being asked to pay maintenance, to pay and still meet her/his own needs.
In weighing and assessing each of these factors, a judge can use a quantitative (or numbers) approach to these factors; basically, assign a number or value to each of these factors and make it easier to figure out whether a spouse should expect a maintenance award from the other.


If we look at a spouse’s past earnings, or if we look at the spouse’s ability to get a job, and we know what that job pays, we can figure out each spouses’ ability to make money. Then if we can figure a party’ living expenses, then we can determine his or her standard of living.
So putting these numbers together (how much you make, and what it costs you to live) it is possible to get a feel for whether or not a spouse needs spousal maintenance to support him or herself after the divorce. Let’s try an example:
1. Husband has been married for 20 years, age 45, and in good health;
2. While living together, Husband and Wife had living expenses of $10,000 a month;
3. Husband’s last job was as a manager at a fast food restaurant; he left the job 15 years ago to stay home and help with the kids;
4. Husband recently found a job at a fast food restaurant and now earns $1800 a month;
5. Wife earns $15,000 a month and is in good health;
6. Husband and Wife are splitting Wife’s 401(k) Plan 50/50, each is getting a car, some furniture, all of equal value.


 Considering these facts in our example above (Husband’s ability to support himself; the standard of living during the marriage; the property available to Husband to support himself) there is reason to believe that Husband will be in need of some support from Wife so that he can have a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and so he doesn’t have to sell furniture, his car, or take from the 401(k) so the he can live.  In this example, Husband may want to consider seeking a spousal maintenance award.
Every case is different; and so this example will not apply to all. But, do consider that where there is need, there is an opportunity to meet that need with an award of spousal maintenance. That’s what Minnesota’s spousal maintenance laws are there for.

Meet Tim Simonson

Tim has been practicing for more than twenty (20) years now, He's handled divorce, child support, child custody, third party and grandparent rights, domestic abuse, parenting time, and many other areas of family law. He always enjoys the chance to meet people and see whether he can help find solutions to their legal problems.

Contact Beyer & Simonson

If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.

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