The Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court’s decision to reject a husband’s request to modify his maintenance obligation to his ex-wife.
It was error, the Court said, to assume that a 57-year-old laborer with a degenerative spinal condition was healthy enough to continue working up to 90 hours a week and earn $150,000 a year.
When the court originally determined the spousal maintenance obligation, the husband earned approximately $150,000 a year installing heavy equipment on roofs; work which the Court deemed to be ‘highly specialized’.
When he became disabled and alleged that he was incapable of continuing with this work, the lower court rejected the husband’s allegation because he ‘refused’ to document efforts to seek employment outside his former field of work.
This was error, according to the Court. A worker’s failure to document efforts to seek other work does not demonstrate a bad faith limitation of income. And, a court may not use a person’s earning ability to determine a maintenance obligation absent a evidence that the person is unemployed or underemployed in bad faith. Bourassa v. Bourassa, 481 N.W.2d 113, 116 (Minn. App. 1992).
It was therefore wrong for the court to reject the husband’s request to modify maintenance, because of his failure to seek employment outside of his former field of work.
If you are paying or receiving a maintenance obligation and have concerns that ongoing payments may be affected by the ability of the worker to continue in the field of work, this decision should be considered before asking a court to modify or terminate spousal maintenance.
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.