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.

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.

Lien

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.

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.

 

 

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.

How Minnesota Divorce Lawyers Deal With The Recent 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.

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.

CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A MINNESOTA DIVORCE LAWYER AT CARLSON & JONES

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.

Call For A Free Consultation (877) 344-1555Free Consultation

Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (218) 736-9429
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions