Unlike child support, spousal maintenance or ‘alimony’ as it is sometimes called, is a way of helping a lesser-earning spouse meet his needs after a marriage ends, but is not intended to contribute to the health and welfare of minor children.  And unlike child support, spousal maintenance is not calculated based on a pre-determined formula. Rather, a court is given the discretion to determine the length and amount of spousal maintenance, and whether to award spousal maintenance at all.


An award of maintenance “depends on a showing of need”.  A spouse can show “need”, by demonstrating to a court that he lacks sufficient property or can’t provide adequate self-support for his reasonable needs in light of the standard of living established during the marriage.” Kampf v. Kampf, 732 N.W.2d 630, 633 (Minn. Ct. App. 2007). If the court determines “need”, the court has the authority to award payments to one spouse, for her future support and maintenance, from the future income of the other spouse.  Minn. Stat. § 518.003, subd. 3a.

If a spouse can demonstrate “need”, then a court will consider the amount and duration of a maintenance award by weighing the factors provided in Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2 (2014). See Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 201 (Minn. 1997).  These “relevant factors” include:

-the financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance

-the spouse’s ability to provide for his or her needs independently

-the time necessary to acquire education to find appropriate employment

-the standard of living established during the marriage

-the length of the marriage

-any loss of employment opportunities during the marriage

-the age and health of the recipient spouse,

-the resources of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought

-the contribution and economic sacrifices of a homemaker.

Minn. Stat. §518.552, subd. 2(a)-(h); see also Kampf v. Kampf, 732 N.W.2d 630, 633-34 (Minn. App. 2007).


Starting with the factor at the top of the list above (‘the financial resources of the spouse’), a court must consider all income of the requesting spouse, including income generated from marital property received in the dissolution. Nardini v. Nardini, 414 N.W.2d 184 (Minn. 1987). 

A court can consider a maintenance award based on the expected return from investing a cash settlement in income-producing assets.  So if the spouse can shift assets to an income-producing form, like rental property or a investment portfolio, then a court can consider the income from the property settlement in determining the spouse’s need.  But, this does not create a bright line rule against maintenance awards in cases where a spouse receives a property award.

A court cannot require a spouse “to invade the principal” of the property awarded to her, to pay living expenses.” Lee v. Lee, 775 N.W.2d 631, 640 (Minn. 2009).  A spouse who is awarded the family home, for example, cannot be forced to sell the house in order to have income to meet reasonable needs.

Because a spousal maintenance award requires a multi-dimensional analysis, it can help to have a lengthy discussion with your lawyer about whether a maintenance award is right for your case.

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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