How Minnesota Divorce Lawyers Deal With the 2019 Alimony Change

Statistically, it is very difficult for divorced women to rebuild wealth. Therefore, spousal maintenance is an important part of most Minnesota divorces. Beginning on January 1, 2019, alimony will be a lot different.

One change went into effect in August 2016. The new alimony reform law actually affected spousal support modifications, which means that the law is just now coming into play. The Cohabitation Alimony Reform Bill makes it easier to modify alimony based on future cohabitation. There was a concern among many Minnesota Divorce Lawyers that ex-spouses lived with their partners but did not get married so as to not affect their alimony.

The new law does not outlaw this practice, but it does give obligor spouses a fighting chance. Instead of simply looking at the exchange of vows, judges may consider several factors, such as the length of cohabitation and the economic benefit which the ex-spouse receives from this arrangement.

The other big change was part of the December 2017 tax reform package. Currently, alimony payments are tax-deductible and alimony receipts are taxable income. Effective January 1, 2019, both these things go away. The obligor can no longer deduct alimony payments, and the obligee does not have to report the payments to the IRS or MDR.

For tax purposes, spousal support payment will be like child support payments. Neither payments nor receipts have any tax consequences. If alimony reformers had their way, the entire system would change along these lines. Many people decry the subjective nature of alimony in places like Minnesota. In the summer of 2017, there were rumblings that the Legislature would soon consider a comprehensive alimony reform bill. But so far, nothing has materialized.

Do You Qualify for Alimony in MN?

In Minnesota, alimony is also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support. Spousal support can either be court-ordered or drawn up by a divorce lawyer. But what exactly is alimony?

The concept of alimony came about because the majority of families used to live off of one salary while the other spouse tended to house duties. After divorce, the unemployed spouse would have trouble making ends meet. So, alimony was designed to help provide support until the unemployed spouse found work or got remarried.

Times have changed, but alimony is still a big part of divorce proceedings. Now, the higher-earning spouse must make monthly payments to the lesser-earning spouse. 

Of course, the law is completely genderless. That means the lower-earning spouse can get alimony regardless of their sex.

Today, there are two major requirements for spousal maintenance. The first is that the lower-earning spouse lacks the assets he or she needs to maintain the marital standard of living post-divorce. 

A court might also award alimony if the lower-earning spouse can’t support himself or herself. This also applies when one spouse is the custodial parent and, due to the child’s circumstances, must remain unemployed.

In most Minnesota divorce agreements, the alimony amount depends on how long the marriage lasts. The shorter the marriage, the less spousal support, and vice versa.


Spousal Support Termination

Spousal support isn’t always for a lifetime. As we mentioned above, moving in with an adult partner can be grounds for alimony termination. 

To prove the cohabitation is worthy of canceling spousal support, the court must evaluate various factors, including whether there are grounds to think the partners would marry if not for the alimony payments and the impact on the lesser-earning spouse if alimony payments ended.

But that’s not the only way you can lose your spousal maintenance payments.

Even before the new alimony laws, if the lower-earning spouse remarried, that was grounds for termination. Of course, Minnesota also allows spousal maintenance to be terminated if either spouse dies.


Can a Minnesota Divorce Attorney Set Up an Alimony Agreement?

Yes! You don’t need a judge to create an alimony agreement, only to enforce one. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms, a divorce lawyer in Minnesota can draw up the agreement, present it to your divorce court judge, and get a court order to enforce it.

Usually, this type of alimony agreement gets drafted as part of the divorce decree. But if you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, you may still be able to compromise outside of court.

Many couples bring their alimony disputes to a mediator or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE). Here, an expert in mediation will help you and your spouse come to a compromise. If you still can’t agree on spousal support at this point, the case will go to court, and a judge will determine spousal support at his or her own discretion.

Prenuptial Agreements and Alimony in Minnesota

The best divorce attorney can also help you and your spouse draft a prenuptial agreement, also known as a premarital agreement. Engaged couples often ask their attorneys to include alimony agreements in prenups. 

As long as an attorney drafts the premarital agreement and you and your spouse agree on the terms of alimony, this agreement is enforceable in a Minnesota court. It would have precedence over any other alimony agreement made by you or a judge.

In your prenuptial agreement, you and your spouse can specify who will receive alimony. It should also detail the amount and type of alimony the receiving spouse is eligible for. We’ll talk more about the types of alimony you can get in Minnesota next.


What Types of Alimony Can Minnesota Divorce Lawyers Set Up?

As it stands, Minnesota law contains three different kinds of alimony. A Minnesota judge may order any, all, or none of these types.

  • Temporary Maintenance: While the case is pending, many spouses have immediate and unexpected financial needs. These needs include things like attorneys’ fees, property deposits, and household maintenance expenses such as rent and utilities. Temporary maintenance gives spouses the money they need to meet these expenses. Income is basically the only factor. Courts rarely look at the broader picture.
  • Short-Term Maintenance: These payments are appropriate if a spouse needs some additional help after the divorce to become self-sufficient. That could be money to finish a college degree or an additional income stream because the spouse must accept a lower-paying entry level job. Other ex-spouses need money while they wait for a house to sell.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: Reformers hate this third type of alimony. It is subjective and also clearly designed to redistribute income. Although the rule is not set in stone, most Wright County judges do not award long-term alimony unless the spouse can never become self-sufficient, perhaps due to a disability, or the marriage lasted longer than ten years.

Minnesota Divorce Lawyers may usually modify the alimony terms based on changed circumstances. As discussed above, the 2016 alimony reform bill made these motions easier to prove in some situations.

Factors in Determining Amount of Payments

The above categories roughly coincide with the duration of alimony payments. For example, temporary maintenance automatically ends when the judge signs the decree. As for the amount of payments, the judge basically weighs the obligee spouse’s economic need against the obligor spouse’s ability to pay. Some specific factors include:

  • Each Spouse’s Economic Means: In addition to employment and other income streams, the judge may normally take the property settlement into consideration. That includes any award of separate property.
  • Educational Need: Obligor spouses do not need to help pay for self-improvement classes. But they do have a legal obligation to help pay for courses related to economic self-sufficiency. That status is in everyone’s best interest.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: This factor looms large in long-term maintenance awards. According to the law, the divorce should not be an unfair financial burden for either spouse. Some financial pain is inevitable. But, it should be evenly spread between the parties to the greatest extent possible.

Fault in the breakup of the marriage is not relevant with regard to alimony. But Minnesota Divorce Lawyers may be able to introduce such evidence in the property division phase, through a back door called the dissipation (waste) rule. If Wife spent $10,000 on a gift for a boyfriend, Husband may be entitled to reimbursement for the community share.

Can Minnesota Divorce Attorneys Modify Your Alimony Agreement?

When the alimony is initially awarded, you and your spouse can request a no modification agreement. This is what’s known as a Karon Waiver. This waiver is named after a 1989 case where a former spouse sought an increase in alimony after agreeing to waive her right to modification during the divorce proceedings.

Karon Waivers specify that either one or both spouses will forfeit the right to request an alimony modification down the road. But barring one of these agreements, the best Minnesota divorce lawyer could ask for an alimony modification in certain situations.

The most common reason for a request to modify alimony is if the receiving spouse experiences a change of circumstances. For example, say the receiving spouse’s income decreases or, alternatively, his or her expenses increase. In this case, the receiving spouse could request a modification to increase alimony payments. 

The paying spouse can also request an alimony modification. As we’ve mentioned, this usually only occurs if the receiving spouse remarries or passes away. Under Minnesota’s new alimony mandates, the paying spouse’s divorce attorney might seek to decrease or eliminate spousal support due to cohabitation.

Learn from a MN Divorce Lawyer How Changes in Alimony Law Might Benefit You

Parts of the alimony law are changing, but other parts are still the same. For a free consultation with experienced Minnesota Divorce Lawyers, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Original article published June 16, 2018 and updated September 23, 2021.

Alimony Modifications and Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys

Income changes cause most spousal support modifications Such adjustments are frequent, since most people change jobs twelve times during their careers. The obligor’s income obviously affects his/her ability to pay. And, the obligee’s income increase might change his/her economic need. Not all income changes qualify as modification events. Under Minnesota law, the change must be unanticipated, permanent, and substantial. These three adjectives rule out a number of events, perhaps even including retirement.

Sometimes, the obligee’s economic need changes in other ways as well. That change could be a close relationship with a paramour or a failure to follow a written rehabilitation plan.

Hutchinson, MN family law attorneys must not only establish a foundation of adjustment. The court normally calculates the amount and duration of the payments as well. These determinations, whether a McLeod County judge performs them or the parties agree to them, must jive with the factors listed below.

Changed Circumstances

Before we get to changed circumstances, we should first take a step back and examine some basic points of initial alimony determinations.

In Minnesota, judges can award temporary, short-term, or long-term alimony. Temporary alimony helps obligees pay divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property rental deposits. Short-term alimony helps obligees with economic needs become economically self-sufficient. Long-term alimony is usually only available if the obligee is disabled, cares for a disabled child, or is otherwise incapable of self-support.

To see how the aforementioned job and life change factors work in McLeod County, let’s look at a couple of examples.

Assume Mike and Karen divorce in their late 50s after many years of marriage. Since Karen was the homemaker and Mike was the breadwinner, Karen has no current job skills and is therefore largely unemployable. So, Mike pays substantial alimony until he turns 65, when he retires.

Mike confidently works with a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney. He assumes the judge will cut off alimony or at least reduce his payments. But not so fast. Retirement is not an unanticipated event. People get older and retire. The judge might still reduce Mike’s alimony payments, but Karen might have something to say about that.

Now assume Karen finds a new boyfriend a few years after she divorces Mike. But she does not marry her boyfriend, so Mike is still technically required to pay spousal support.

But once again, not so fast. If Karen had a long-term relationship with her boyfriend which involved some shared financial matters, such as a joint checking account or joint home purchase, a Hutchinson, MN family law attorney might still be able to reduce Mike’s spousal support payments.

Hutchinson, MN Family Law Attorneys and Amount/Duration Adjustments

So, either former spouse may seek to change the alimony obligation based on changed circumstances. Next, the amount and duration of payments must be re-calculated, as follows:

  • Obligee’s Financial Resources: In emotional modifications, like a new boyfriend or girlfriend, this factor is usually paramount. A new partner’s income is usually not relevant in child support inquiries, but it is incredibly relevant in spousal support matters.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: This factor’s significance diminishes in modification proceedings, especially if the parties have been divorced for more than a few years.
  • Relative Earning Capacity: Typically, young, healthy, and well-educated people have significant earning potential. So, if there is a considerable age, health, or other discrepancy between the two former spouses, this gap might justify an increase or decrease in spousal support payments.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: Much like the standard of living factor, this consideration is important in initial determinations, but not as important in subsequent modifications.

Most modification claims settle out of court. That includes both the need for modification and the new amount and duration of payments. As long as each spouse had an independent Hutchinson, MN family law attorney through the whole process, most McLeod County judges approve most of these settlements. Frequently, they do not even require hearings.

So, your Hutchinson, MN family law attorney must be more than a diligent researcher and forceful litigator. Your attorney must also be a good negotiator.

Connect with an Assertive Lawyer

Initial spousal support determinations are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Alimony Determinations

A number of states, including Illinois, have recently changed their spousal support laws. In the Prairie State, alimony determinations are much like child support determinations. Judges use the parties’ income and the length of the marriage to determine the amount and duration of spousal support payments, at least in most cases. But Minnesota’s alimony law is still very subjective. Judges have quite a bit of discretion in this area. These same subjective principles apply in other areas, such as the need for alimony in the first place.

Both obligors (people paying support) and obligees (people receiving support) have substantial legal and financial rights in Minnesota. It’s important than an assertive Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer stands up for these rights, both in the courtroom and at the negotiation table.

Is Spousal Support Appropriate?

In many jurisdictions, judges automatically award alimony in almost all cases. The amount and duration of payments is the only issue. But in Minnesota, there is a presumption that a Wright County family law judge should not award alimony. A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer can rebut that presumption in the following situations:

  • Insufficient Property: Under Minnesota law, a divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden for either party. So, if a spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs, alimony payments might be appropriate. In this context, “reasonable needs” usually means a standard of living roughly equivalent to the standard of living during the marriage. This factor often comes into play if the obligor had substantial non-marital property.
  • Incapable of Self-Support: Lack of education or job experience generally does not render one incapable of self-support. These deficiencies can be addressed. A physical, mental, emotional, or other medical disability, however, probably does make the spouse incapable of earning enough money to meet reasonable needs.
  • Custody of Minor Disabled Child: The disability must be so severe that the child is incapable of living independently. There is sometimes a difference between inability to achieve self-sufficiency and unwillingness to do so. If the child is disabled to the extent that s/he requires constant care, the case for alimony is stronger.

Generally, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must prove alimony eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Duration of Payments

Some judges award temporary alimony. Such payments are for spouses who need help meeting divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees and property rental deposits. To obtain temporary alimony, a Buffalo, MN lawyer must normally show the spouse lacks the means to pay these expenses. The case for alimony is weaker if the obligee was the filing spouse. These obligees cannot claim they were blindsided by the divorce.

Temporary support is subject to modification. These payments automatically terminate when a Wright County judge finalizes the divorce.

Short-term maintenance is the most common type of spousal support in Minnesota. As mentioned, many obligees need to “get on their feet” before they can meet their own reasonable needs. If the obligee has a specific rehabilitation plan, such as finishing school, the case for alimony is stronger. If not, the case for alimony is weaker.

Judges set specific ending dates for short-term support. Some judges use the length of the marriage (e.g. ten years of support payments following a ten-year marriage). Others assign a reasonable period based on the rehabilitation plan. If the obligee needs more support, the obligee can file a motion to extend payments.

A few judges still award long-term alimony, usually if the obligee has custody of a severely disabled child. These payments might also be available if the obligee is seriously disabled. “Long term” is not synonymous with “forever.” There is usually an end date. It’s just normally further out in the future.

Amount of Payments in Wright County

To determine the specific length, as well as the amount of payments, most Wright County judges consider the following factors:

  • Obligee’s financial need,
  • Amount of time needed for the obligee to achieve self-sufficiency,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Length of the relationship,
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the “homemaker” factor),
  • Relative age, health, and education of each spouse, and
  • Obligor’s ability to pay.

A Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer must also be mindful of these factors during settlement negotiations. Almost all marriage dissolutions settle out of court. However, a Wright County judge is unlikely to approve the settlement if it does not result in a just and right division of the marital estate.

Reach Out to Compassionate Attorneys

Alimony is usually, but not always, part of a divorce settlement. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How Do Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys Set Alimony Payments?

Many states, including nearby Illinois, have substantially revamped their spousal support laws in recent years. To set the amount and duration of payments, judges in these jurisdictions follow mathematical formulas as opposed to subjective factors. So, alimony is more like child support.

But despite a wave of reform in 2017, Minnesota spousal support laws are still basically the same. Subjective factors determine the amount and duration of alimony payments. This reform only tweaked the rules regarding continued alimony and remarriage.

Minnesota law has an additional twist. Alimony is not always a part of a divorce decree. The requesting spouse must first establish the need for spousal support. Even then, an award is optional. The statute clearly says that the judge “may” grant alimony.

So, whether you want to maximize or minimize spousal support payments, aggressive representation from a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome.

The Spousal Support Presumption

Essentially, there s a presumption that alimony is inappropriate in Minnesota. To overcome this presumption, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney must present sufficient evidence on one of the two following points:

  • Lack of property sufficient to provide for the spouse’s reasonable needs, or
  • A disability that makes full-time employment impossible or impractical.

In both these situations, the standard of living during the marriage is relevant. Either a judge’s order or an agreed property settlement must divide debt and assets in such a way that the divorce is not an unfair financial burden for either party.

To overcome the no-alimony presumption, most Buffalo, MN family law attorneys focus on the second bullet point mentioned above. “Disability” does not just mean a physical condition. That disability could also be a lack of education or a lack of job skills. Furthermore, the disability need not be personal. For example, if Wife has custody of a minor disabled child, Wife may be unable to work outside the home. This example is mentioned in 518.552(1)(b).

To rebut this evidence and reimpose the no-alimony presumption, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney could dispute either the “disability” portion or the “reasonable needs” prong.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and the Types of Alimony

Disabilities are usually not permanent. That’s especially true for child custody disabilities and employability disabilities. So, there are basically three types of spousal support in Wright County:

  • Temporary Maintenance: Many spouses need help with divorce-related expenses, such as attorneys’ fees. If the obligor has the means to provide such assistance, temporary alimony is usually appropriate. In other cases, there is a significant post-divorce income discrepancy between the two spouses. That’s especially true if one spouse was the “caregiver” and the other one was the “breadwinner.”
  • Short-Term Maintenance: This type of alimony is basically a continuation of temporary maintenance. Some spouses need additional money to finish a degree or meet other short-term expenses. Other spouses must accept low-paying jobs to merge back into the workforce.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: If the marriage lasted more than ten years or the obligee spouse has a permanent disability, long-term maintenance may be in order.

Generally, a judge will entertain a motion to modify the amount and/or duration of payments if financial circumstances materially and substantially change for either party. The change must have been unanticipated at the time of divorce, so the obligor’s retirement does not necessarily mandate a modification. Additionally, as mentioned, the Legislature recently broadened the rules in terms of the obligee’s remarriage. Now, if the obligee is in a financially supportive and semi-permanent relationship, that relationship may be sufficient to terminate alimony payments.

Spousal Support Amount Factors

These factors basically come from two sources. First, the Legislative Coordinating Commission Office on the Economic Status of Women published some guidelines on this issue in 2014. However, these figures have not been updated in quite some time.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the spousal support statute lists a number of factors which are relevant in this area. Some notable ones include:

  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Obligor’s ability to pay,
  • Amount of time and effort the obligee needs to become economically self-sufficient,
  • Obligee’s overall economic need,
  • Relative age, health, and employability of each spouse, and
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the homemaker effect).

If any of these factors change, mostly the obligee’s need or the obligor’s ability, a judge may modify the amount or duration of payments.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer

Alimony is usually, but not always, a component of a Wright County divorce decree. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Can a Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorney Obtain Alimony in Wright County?

In some situations, spousal support is either strictly limited or completely unavailable. Many prenuptial agreements include alimony caps. It is difficult, but not impossible, to unilaterally overturn these agreements in court. Moreover, there is a presumption against alimony in Minnesota. Under Section 518.552, Wright County judges may only make such orders in limited circumstances. More on that below.

Yet in most divorce cases, alimony is an essential component of an equitable property division. And, the judge has a great deal of discretion when setting the amount and duration of payments. So, an assertive Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually obtain spousal support payments, based on the obligee’s need and the obligor’s ability.

Setting the Duration of Payments

Section 518.552 contains exemptions for both short and long-term support payments. Subdivision 1(a) states that alimony is available to “provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage,” particularly if the divorce includes “a period of training or education.” This provision gives rise to two types of alimony:

  • Temporary Alimony: Some spouses need additional funds to meet divorce-related expenses, such as daycare costs and attorneys’ fees. A Buffalo, MN family law attorney can often obtain such support, especially if the obligee spouse is the non-filing spouse. Temporary alimony automatically terminates when a Wright County judge signs the final marriage dissolution order.
  • Short-Term Alimony: The aforementioned education or training period often extends beyond the period of separation. For example, many people are several years short of a degree, or they must accept a low-paying job to merge back into the workforce. Most judges will award alimony payments for two or three years in these situations.

In other cases, the Subdivision 1(b) exemption applies. This provision makes alimony available on a long-term basis if the obligee spouse cannot “provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances,” due to:

  • An employment hardship, such as a mental, physical, or emotional disability, or
  • The custody of a special-needs child.

Since health conditions change over time and children grow up, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney may be able to modify this obligation at a later date.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and the Amount of Alimony Payments

Many states, including nearby Illinois, tie the duration of payments to objective items, such as the length of the marriage. But Minnesota law is very subjective in this area. The same thing applies to the duration of payments. If the judge feels that, based on the evidence, spousal support is appropriate, the amount must be based on factors including:

  • Obligee’s financial need,
  • Obligor’s available financial resources,
  • Custody of minor children,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Economic contributions to the marriage,
  • Agreements between the parties,
  • Relative age, health, and education of each spouse, and
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage.

The “agreements” bullet may be the most important point. As discussed above, most judges uphold agreements between the spouses, as long as both spouses had an independent Buffalo, MN family law attorney throughout the process.

Modifying Spousal Support Payments

Financial needs change over time. That’s especially true in 1(a) cases. The amount of financial resources changes over time as well. Such alterations often affect 1(b) alimony awards.

Generally, if any of these circumstances permanently change in a way that was not anticipated at the time of divorce, a judge may modify the amount and/or duration of payments. Additionally, the changed circumstances must normally be involuntary, at least to an extent. Obligors cannot voluntarily quit lucrative jobs to reduce their spousal support obligations. Similarly, obligees cannot neglect opportunities to become self-sufficient.

Retirement and remarriage are often issues in modification matters. While retirement certainly constitutes changed financial circumstances, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney could argue that it was an anticipated change. People grow older and often retire. If the obligor accepted a voluntary early retirement package, this argument is even stronger.

Generally, remarriage terminates alimony obligations. But many Buffalo, MN family law attorneys argue that a long-term, mutually-supportive financial relationship is tantamount to a marriage. Most judges are willing to look at the totality of the circumstances to determine if modification is appropriate in these cases.

Connect with an Experienced Lawyer

Most Minnesota marriage dissolutions include alimony obligations. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

The Maginicient Seven of Alimony Collection

Even though such orders are important components of an equitable property division, many obligors (people who pay spousal support) see alimony orders as unfair financial penalties. That’s especially true if the order is more than a few years old. Seven or eight years is a long time to pay seven or eight hundred dollars a month. As a result, obligees (people who receive support) do not get a significant portion of the $9 billion per year in court-ordered payments.

If your court order does not match the amount of spousal support your ex pays, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer can give you a number of collection options.

Demand Letter

Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers commonly use demand letters in personal injury cases. These letters sketch out the legal basis of the claim, which in this case, is an existing court order. Then, most letters demand a settlement payment and also give obligors the option to work out a permanent solution.

These letters never produce any money right away. But they are excellent attention-getting devices. That’s especially true if a divorce mill handled your marriage dissolution or you did not have a separate Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer during the initial proceeding.

Conciliation Cout Lawsuit

Chapter 491A courts are the small claims courts in Minnesota. These judges deal with a number of issues, including suits for money damages if the amount in controversy is less than $15,000. That’s nearly always the case with regard to past-due alimony, even if the obligor is several months behind.

Small claims court is a little like Judge Judy without cameras. You do not need a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer. In fact, lawyers often get in the way. If you are prepared, you will probably win. And, an attorney can help you prepare your case.

The big downside of Conciliation Court is that it is normally not a court of record, and so the obligor can automatically appeal the decision. That appeal completely wipes out the judgment. But, most people don’t know that.

Family Court Contempt Order

A civil contempt order is a step up from a Conciliation Court judgment. Contempt orders are only appealable under limited circumstances. The only way to deal with them, in most cases, is to purge the order by complying with it or coming to an agreement with the other side.

This agreement usually consists of a lump-sum payment up front of perhaps half the arrearage, and a payment plan for the rest. It may be a good idea to modify the amount downward as well. If the obligor feels like he won something, he may be more inclined to voluntarily comply. That’s also a win for the obligee.

Keep reading to find out more ways to convert court orders into real money.

Federal Payment Intercept

Lots of people get tax refunds in the spring. Many other people receive Social Security or other federal benefits. In some cases, a judge may sign an order authorizing the obligee to intercept these payments to satisfy the arrearage.

These payment intercepts are quite common in child support cases, but somewhat rare with regard to alimony. The judge will probably not sign such an order unless the spousal support is clearly need-based (e.g. the obligee has custody of a disabled child). Additionally, payment intercept could stir up a hornet’s nest. Many obligors are very unhappy, to say the least, when they do not get payments they feel like they deserve.

License/Passport Suspension

This enforcement method is basically low-intensity payment intercept. Suspension is an attention-getting measure as opposed to a money-generating measure. So, a suspension may not stir up a hornet’s nest. And, the obligor must take care of the arrearage sooner or later. However, most Wright County family law judges only authorize license suspension in limited cases.

Wage Garnishment

This option may be the best alimony arrearage collection tool. It’s easy to use, effective, and may be available with or without a court order.

Typically, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers include suspended wage withholding orders in alimony orders. There is usually a statement that the order does not go into effect unless the obligor falls behind. Such order become active if the obligee files a request and sends notice to the obligor’s payroll agent. That latter task is sometimes easier said than done. A Conciliation Court judge probably will not authorize wage garnishment, but a family court judge will almost certainly allow such action.


The final alimony collection method is also an attention-getting measure. Even if the obligor owns no real property in Wright County, a lien is often effective.

Generall, no separate court action is necessary. The obligee just files a copy of the judgment in the property records. Before the obligor transfers the property, the obligor must discharge the lien. These documents also adversely affect credit scores. Credit liens, like property liens, only go away if the person who placed the lien dissolves it, at least in most cases.

Work With a Forceful Attorney

If you are not getting the right amount of alimony, you have options. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.

Can a Buffalo Family Law Lawyer Change Alimony Amounts?

FSO (Family Support Obligation) determinations, including spousal support obligations, are never designed to be permanent. Alimony payments, in terms of both amount and duration, are based on several amorphous factors. Since these factors change frequently, the government recommends that people modify spousal support orders at least once every three years.

Regardless of the basis for modification, and regardless of the other party’s agreement, a Buffalo family law lawyer must always get a judge to approve the modification. Only judicial modifications have any legal force and effect. If your payments fall short of the amount in the decree, or if you are owed more than the other party has paid, an enforcement proceeding may be in the cards.

Grounds for Modification

In terms of alimony, the obligee spouse’s economic need and the obligor’s ability to pay basically determine the amount and duration of payments. If either of these things change, a Buffalo family law lawyer could move the alimony amount either up or down.

Eligibility for, or termination of, public assistance benefits could affect the spousal support calculation as well. Public assistance comes in many forms, such as Social Security payments or subsidized health insurance. It could also include things like favorable (or unfavorable) tax law changes.

In any case, the income or expense change must be so substantial that it renders the current alimony award unfair. The party filing the motion has the burden of proof to establish changed circumstances. The changes must be permanent, unanticipated, and involuntary.

This part of the modification process is often tricky. For example, a spouse cannot voluntarily reduce his income to reduce his spousal support obligation. So, if Ricky accepts an early retirement package so he can pay less alimony to Lucy, a judge may not approve a reduction. Ricky’s motives are obviously hard for Lucy to prove in court, especially if Ricky had mixed motives for accepting early retirement.

These same problems arise if Lucy begins a serious relationship with Fred but does not marry him. Ricky could argue that Fred’s financial assistance decreased Lucy’s financial needs. Lucy and her Buffalo family law lawyer could counter that she and Fred are “just friends.”

Reconsideration Factors

Alimony modifications usually involve long-term payments. There are other types of spousal support as well. But temporary alimony payments automatically terminate when the divorce is final, and short-term orders rarely last more than three years.

The aforementioned needs/ability analysis is very subjective. To help a judge make a more accurate determination, Minnesota law sets forth a number of factors to consider. Some of them include:

  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: This factor is relevant even if the parties have been divorced for several years. In Minnesota, long-term alimony is basically an income redistribution tool.
  • Duration of the Marriage: There is an assumption that the longer the marriage lasted, the more the obligee spouse invested in the relationship both financially and emotionally. That assumption may or may not be true, but there it is.
  • Income/Expense Information: A simple spreadsheet may be determinative in modification cases. As a very general rule of thumb, if income or expenses increase or decrease by at least 10 percent, a Wright County judge may conclude that there has been a substantial change in financial circumstances. Additionally, this information may help foster an agreed resolution.
  • Agreements Between the Parties: Wright County family law judges almost always approve agreements between the parties as long as they are not blatantly one-sided and each spouse had an independent Buffalo family law lawyer.

Other factors, which may be more relevant in original proceedings, include the relative age and health of the parties and the award of marital and non-marital property.

Buffalo Family Law Lawyers and Procedural Issues

Due to the subjective nature of this process, alimony modification disputes are very common. Mediation, either before or after a spouse files a modification petition, usually resolves them.

In many cases, pre-petition mediation is very effective. As mentioned, Wright County judges usually approve almost all alimony modification agreements. Often, the parties agree in principle (a modification is necessary) but disagree in practice (the amount of the modification).

Mediation is ideal in situations like this one. Many mediators use general agreement as a foundation for specific agreement. If the parties go to a judge with a proposed modification, many judges approve the modification without even holding an adversarial hearing. So, pre-petition mediation saves time and money. Everybody likes that.

Rely on Diligent Attorneys

The alimony modification process may seem intimidating, but an experienced Buffalo family law lawyer makes it a lot easier. To get the legal help you need, call Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

A Hutchinson Divorce Lawyer Explains MN Alimony Rules

Spousal support is probably the most controversial divorce issue. The financial aspect is only part of the story. What makes these issues so difficult is that people on both sides have extremely strong feelings. So, it’s often difficult even for experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyers to resolve these disputes.

At the heart of it all, there is a dispute over the nature of spousal support. Should it be a way to redistribute income and equalize the standard of living between the divorced spouses, or should it be a way to help the obligee spouse become economically self-sufficient?

Minnesota law toes the line between these two philosophies. The judge may award alimony if one spouse has an economic need or one spouse lacks sufficient income and property to approximate the standard of living during the marriage.

To flesh out these principles, Hutchinson divorce lawyers use an ongoing process that goes through several stages.

Determining Income and Assets

Typically, divorce is a slow fade. The parties anticipate a marriage dissolution long before either the husband or wife retains a Hutchinson divorce attorney. So, if one spouse (usually the husband) wants to conceal income or assets from the other spouse (usually the wife), there is plenty of opportunity to do so.

If you suspect your husband may be taking such action, perhaps because of a conversation you had, there are some red flags to look for, including:

  • Mail with unfamiliar corporate or business addresses,
  • Sudden drops in account balances,
  • Bank and other e-mail alerts that stop coming, and
  • Changes in take-home pay.

That last bullet is probably the most common way to hide money. Mike could voluntarily increase his tax withholding or 401(k) contributions, claim he cannot afford to pay substantial alimony, and then get the money back later.

The Mikes of the world think they can get away with it, but there is an amended W-2, payroll deduction authorization, or other smoking gun somewhere. A diligent Hutchinson divorce lawyer knows how to find these things. They usually turn up during the discovery period.

If you see any of this evidence, do not confront your spouse. He will just deny it and go underground. If that happens, it will be harder for a Hutchinson divorce lawyer to find the aforementioned smoking gun.

Determining the Amount and Duration of Payments

In some states, such as neighboring Illinois, spousal support amount is like child support amount. There is a mathematical formula in the law. But McLeod County family law judges use a subjective approach that takes a number of factors into account, including:

  • Requesting spouse’s economic need,
  • Duration of the marriage,
  • Relative age, health, education, and employment background of each party,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Obligor spouse’s ability to pay, and
  • The “homemaker factor.”

Most of these factors are self-explanatory, but that last bullet needs some further explanation. Many spouses sacrifice career advancement to become a caregiver. That could be quitting a job and becoming a stay-at-home parent or turning down a promotion because it would mean long hours at work. So, this factor could be very significant or almost meaningless.

These same factors often apply to the duration of alimony payments. Largely depending on the requesting spouse’s economic need, a judge may order one of the following:

  • Temporary Alimony: When the marriage formally breaks up, some spouses need help with Hutchinson divorce lawyer fees, relocation expenses, daycare deposits, and other such costs. Temporary alimony gives the spouse the money needed to meet these expenses. This kind of alimony automatically terminates when the judge signs the decree.
  • Short-Term Alimony: The most common type of spousal support gives people the time and resources they need to finish a degree or accept a low-paying job and get back into the workforce. Both the amount and duration of payments are subjective and subject to modification, as outlined below.
  • Long-Term Alimony: The rarest type of spousal support is only available if the marriage lasted at least ten years. Furthermore, the requesting spouse must be unable to obtain economic self-sufficiency or have custody of a minor disabled child.

Typically, the parties settle alimony and other issues out of court. This approach decreases legal fees, ends the matter more quickly, and gives the parties more control over the outcome.

How Do Hutchinson Divorce Lawyers Modify Alimony Orders?

Circumstances change for both obligors and obligees. If the change is material and substantial, a motion to modify the amount and/or duration of payments may be successful.

Financial-based modifications are often straightforward. As a rule of thumb, if the obligor’s income changed by more than 10 percent, that’s usually a material and substantial change. The change must also be involuntary. Obligors cannot voluntarily leave high-paying jobs to avoid paying alimony.

Lifestyle-based modifications are sometimes tricky, and remarriage modifications are a good example. If the obligor or obligee begins a long-term, supportive relationship with another person, a McLeod County family law judge could alter the amount or duration of payments. This grounds for modification is somewhat vague, so your Hutchinson divorce lawyer must be very assertive.

Judges apply the same factors listed above when they reset the amount and duration of payments. Furthermore, like most divorces, most modifications settle out of court.

Connect with Dedicated Attorneys

From start to finish, alimony is a complex matter. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.



A Hutchinson Family Law Attorney Talks About the 2019 Alimony Rules

For about a generation, alimony payments have been tax-deductible and alimony receipts have been tax reportable. That all changed on January 1.

The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act eliminated the alimony payments tax deduction. The TCJA also ended the reporting requirement.

No one is really sure what effect the change will have. TCJA backers say the new rules will benefit divorced women because it reduces their taxable income. Others, however, say the change will hurt divorced women. An ex-husband might claim that, since the tax deduction is going away, he can no longer afford to pay alimony.

Duration of Alimony Payments in McLeod County

Under Minnesota law, a divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden for either party. Statistically, divorced men rebuild wealth more quickly than divorced women. Add two and two together, and you get four. Because of these facts, most husbands pay spousal support to most wives.

In the Gopher State, judges have a great deal of discretion when setting the duration of payments. Typically, alimony comes in three forms:

  • Temporary Alimony: When a couple divorces, a number of immediate short-term financial needs pop up. Attorneys’ fees to a Hutchinson family law attorney and ordinary household expenses spring immediately to mind. If the obligee spouse (usually the wife) needs help with these expenses and the obligor spouse (usually the husband) has the ability to pay, a judge will probably award temporary alimony. This type of alimony automatically terminates when the divorce becomes final.
  • Short Term Spousal Maintenance: Once the divorce is final, many obligee spouses need some time to become economically self-sufficient. This journey may involve going back to school to finish a degree or accepting a low-paying internship to merge back into the workforce. If the economic need continues, and the ability to pay continues as well, the judge may extend maintenance payments for a year or two, based on the evidence.
  • Long Term Alimony: If the couple was married for a long time (usually over ten years) or the obligee spouse will never become economically self-sufficient due to a disability, the judge may order permanent or long term alimony. Sometimes, these payments last forever. Other times, the payments end after a period of years (perhaps twice the duration of the marriage).

A judge may order one or more forms of alimony. Typically, these awards can be modified, as outlined below.

Spousal Support Amount

As mentioned, when considering alimony payments, a Hutchinson family law attorney must take into account the obligee’s economic need and the obligor’s ability to pay. To assist in this process, Minnesota law sets out a number of factors to consider, including:

  • Financial resources of each spouse,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Amount of time the obligee needs to become self-sufficient,
  • Length of the marriage,
  • Custody of minor children (i.e. does the residential custodian need help with the house payment),
  • Economic and noneconomic contributions to the marriage,
  • Tax consequences,
  • Agreements between the parties, and
  • Relative age and health of each spouse.

Often, a Hutchinson family law attorney asks the judge to sign findings of facts and conclusions of law. This separate document lays out the judge’s rationale for the amount and duration of alimony payments, as well as other issues in the case. If the judge does so, it may be easier to modify the spousal support obligation later, if need be.

Assume the judge awards Ramona significant short term spousal maintenance because she says she will attend school full time. If she drops out of school, her ex-husband Mike has a very good case for modification.

Changing the Amount and Duration of Payments

Generally, a Hutchinson family law attorney may ask the judge to move the amount and/or duration of payments either up or down. The law states that the judge may modify the amount if circumstances have materially and substantially changed. There are some subparts as well. In addition to new, the circumstances must be:

  • Permanent,
  • Involuntary, and
  • Unanticipated.

Let’s return to Ramona and Mike and change the facts a little. Assume Ramona struggles in school and must reduce the number of hours she takes per semester. If she asks the court to extend the short term maintenance duration, a Hutchinson family law attorney faces an uphill climb.

Or, assume Mike starts a freelance consulting business and claims he can no longer afford to pay alimony. If he changed jobs to avoid paying alimony, he is probably not entitled to a reduction.

Work with an Experienced Lawyer

Some alimony rules are different in the New Year, and others are the same. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Hutchinson Family Law and Alimony Payments

Spousal support is one of the most controversial parts of a Hutchinson divorce. There are strong feelings on both sides. Many people feel that alimony is basically a financial penalty. Others counter that most divorced women would perpetually live in poverty without these payments.

Many states have substantially overhauled their spousal support laws. Nearby Illinois redid its family laws in 2016. About that same time, Minnesota lawmakers tinkered with reform. A bill making it easier to modify spousal support passed 112-9 in the House and 45-12 in the Senate.

Advocates hoped that this change would create momentum for further change. But for better or for worse, that did not happen. So, Hutchinson family law cases still involve subjective spousal support laws, as outlined below.

Duration of Spousal Support Payments

In a nutshell, McLeod County judges may award temporary alimony and/or long-term alimony.

Typically, about two weeks after a spouse files a divorce petition, a Hutchinson family law judge will hold a temporary hearing. Temporary alimony is usually an issue at this hearing. These payments help the oblige spouse meet immediate expenses like:

  • Attorneys’ fees,
  • Rental/Utility deposits, and
  • Daycare expenses.

If the requesting spouse is the respondent, the judge just needs proof of financial need, and the judge usually enters a support order. If the requesting spouse is the petitioner, the inquiry could be a bit more complex. If there is evidence that the requesting spouse contacted an attorney several months before filing the petition, a Hutchinson family law attorney could argue that s/he should have been saving money. Therefore, it is unfair to make the other spouse financially subsidize the failure to plan.

Temporary alimony terminates when the case ends. Many divorce orders include provisions for short-term alimony. These payments are designed to help the requesting spouse become economically self-sufficient. The money could be for things like:

  • School tuition, or
  • An additional income stream to bridge the gap between married and single life.

Short-term alimony rarely lasts for more than three or five years. The length is usually based on the amount of time the requesting spouse needs to obtain economic self-sufficiency.

Occasionally, a Hutchinson family law judge will order long-term alimony. These payments are appropriate if the marriage lasted at least ten years or the requesting spouse cannot achieve economic self-sufficiency. For example, the spouse might have a physical, mental, or other disability. Or, the spouse may have custody of a severely disabled child.

Hutchinson Family Law and Amount of Alimony Payments

Determining the amount of payments is also a rather subjective process. In child support cases, there are set guidelines which are presumed reasonable and based on a limited number of factors. But with regard to spousal support, Hutchinson family law judges may set almost any amount after considering a number of factors, including:

  • Requesting Spouse’s Financial Need: As mentioned, some spouses need help paying the bills for a while after a divorce. For example, Wife may need to work at a low-paying job until she re-establishes herself in the workforce.
  • Paying Spouse’s Financial Resources: Ability to pay is a factor. Under Minnesota law, the divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden for either party.
  • Agreements Between the Parties: Many spouses have premarital agreements that set caps on spousal support payments. As long as the contract is not blatantly one-sided and both spouses had an equal voice in the agreement, a Hutchinson family law judge will almost always uphold it.
  • Tax Consequences: This factor will change significantly in January 2019. The IRS will end the tax deduction for alimony payments and no longer require recipient spouses to report the income. No one is sure whether this change will help divorced women, help divorced men, or not help anyone.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: Divorce almost always reduces a family’s standard of living. Statistically, this reduction is more pronounced among divorced women. So, this factor weighs in favor of higher spousal support payments.
  • Current and Future Economic Status: People who get higher marital property shares need less alimony. The same thing goes for people with large awards of nonmarital property. In terms of future income, no Hutchinson family law judge has a crystal ball. However, as a general rule, young, healthy, and/or well-educated people usually earn more than older, sickly, and/or poorly-educated people.
  • Noneconomic Contributions to the Marriage: If the requesting spouse put a career on hold to become the primary caregiver, the “homemaker factor” may be quite significant. In other cases, not so much.

Both the amount and duration of payments may be modified later based on changed financial circumstances. Income and status changes are the two big ones. Retirement may be a basis for modification, unless the paying spouse retired to avoid making alimony payments. The aforementioned 2016 change made it easier to modify payments based on cohabitation.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Lawyer

Spousal support is an important part of most divorce cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.

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