Category Archives: Spousal Maintenance

Spousal Maintenance And Income

In Curtis v. Curtis, A14-1841,  (Minn 2016) the Supreme Court reaffirmed  that a trial court has broad discretion to consider investment income to determine whether a spouse is need of spousal maintenance.

In Curtis, the husband worked as a dentist and his wife was a homemaker who had raised two children, who were now adults. The parties were married 22 years and had built a substantial marital estate, including a marital home, lake home, a second home, a vacation property in South Carolina and a commercial building. They also had an investment account worth $2,038,000 and a certificate of deposit with an approximate value of $171,000 and various other assets. By stipulation wife was awarded marital property totaling $2,800,000(57% of the marital estate), including the investment accounts and certificate of deposit, and husband was awarded $2,170,000(43% of the marital estate). The court approved the stipulated property settlement and the parties litigated the issue of spousal maintenance. The trial court denied wife spousal maintenance determining the wife could exchange the assets in the investment accounts and the certificate of deposit for higher yielding investments to produce income sufficient to meet her monthly expenses. The court did not consider the tax consequences of the restructuring and reallocation of assets. The court of appeals affirmed in a 2-1 unpublished decision.

On appeal, the Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion in taking into account the income-earning potential of the wife’s property award, but has an obligation to also consider the tax consequences that would be incurred to reallocate the assets to increase the income. (By inference apparently a trial court can require a reallocation of assets to maximize income if tax consequences are considered.) The court noted the tax consequences could impact the property division as the wife is not required to invade the principal assets she was awarded.  The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

This decision reaffirms a trial court must consider all potential income a spouse may generate from the property received in the divorce. It also makes it clear it is essential to have financial experts to perform analysis of potential income property awards and a tax expert to determine what if any tax consequences will be incurred to maximize the potential income that is claimed to be available for a spouse to meet their respective needs.

In all divorces with spousal maintenance issues or large marital property estates it is important to retain an experienced  divorce lawyer to assist in resolving the matter, whether through mediation or litigation.

Pitfalls In Handling Your Own Divorce

I have seen an increase in people trying to draft their own Divorce Judgment and Decree, which often leads to numerous problems and additional fees and expense to redraft the Decree or for the need to move to amend it because of ambiguities. Some terms or omissions can be impossible to correct afterwards.

If you have children, real estate, assets in excess of $20,000, pensions or issues relating to custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance or child support it is best to retain an experienced family law attorney to draft the final paperwork.

I have represented numerous clients when their paperwork has been rejected by the trial court or worse has been accepted, but has failed to properly address all issues or foreseeable issues. Family law is complicated and has extensive statutes and common law set forth in a large scope of cases that a layman will not understand or properly address. Neither the court or the clerk’s office can or will give legal advice.

Once the Decree is accepted and filed many of the terms are not modifiable at a later time. Property settlements become final. Other terms may be modifiable if there is a substantial change in circumstances, but still may be difficult and expensive to attempt to modify.

There are numerous nuances in drafting custody and parenting plans that would benefit the input of an experienced divorce attorney. These agreements are generally not easy to change or modify. Vague or incomplete parenting plans often leads to numerous disputes and issues that can cause the noncustodial parent to lose important parenting time when a dispute arises.

Determining child support under the calculator is not as easy as it seems as there are numerous collateral issues that may not be properly addressed such as imputing income for less than full-time employment, bonus income, or issues and complexities when dealing with self employment, or overtime income. There are also numerous complexities in determining what the actual percentage of parenting time is for each parent is under parenting time schedules. A lawyer can also make sure the issue of the child dependency tax exemptions are properly addressed and drafted in the decree as well as other matters such as security in life insurance is included to make sure there is adequate support in the event of a death.

Spousal maintenance terms have to be dealt with extremely carefully or unintended results can easily happen. If proper waivers are not included with specialized language a party may leave itself open for extended or continuing spousal maintenance or attempted motions to do so. A lawyer should be used in every case dealing with spousal maintenance cases.

If you own a home it is also important to have a lawyer’s assistance. It is essential to make sure the complete legal description is included or you can have expensive future title problems. An agreement to sell the home needs critical detailed information included to properly address possible unforeseen issues such as difficulties in facilitating the sale or default or possible short sale ramifications and other issues, including possession, payment requirements and cooperation terms.

Dividing retirement assets and pensions have many complex issues that can lead to serious unintended consequences if not properly addressed. Survival benefits, valuation and tax issues and other complexities needs the input and advice of an experienced attorney. Often a separate Order (QDRO) needs to be prepared with numerous electives and options that can involve tens of thousands of dollars in differences depending on the electives selected, or more, if there are errors made that generally may not be later modifiable.

Generally when a divorce starts many people are on an emotional roller coaster and often have some temporary depression issues. Many people have feelings of guilt or remorse or even anger and cannot properly evaluate what is fair and equitable or consistent with the law. They may overlook important issues or make unwise concessions that may haunt them for years as they try dig out of a deep financial hole or give up custody or parenting time they cannot later change.  They may find they are entitled to much more than they are aware of if they overlook nonmarital assets or other spousal maintenance issues. A good family law attorney will protect you from making a poor decision without careful thought and evaluation.

The family law rules and rules of civil procedure are very complex and you will be expected to follow them. If you miss deadlines you may lose or waive important rights to make submissions or argue issues.

Do not assume you can easily represent yourself in a divorce and navigate drafting a divorce decree that properly protects you. Retaining an experienced divorce attorney is a wise and prudent investment to make sure all issues are fully evaluated and addressed and your rights are protected.  I have been a lawyer for over 33 years and practice exclusively in family law, custody, divorce and mediation. I will make sure your rights are protected.

Cohabitation May Now be Grounds to Modify Spousal Maintenance

The legislature recently passed an amendment and new law to be effective August 1, 2016, to allow a court to consider Cohabitation as grounds to modify, reduce or terminate spousal maintenance. Minnesota Statute 518.552 was amended to add a subdivision 6 to allow for the reduction or termination of spousal maintenance in some limited circumstances when there is cohabitation by an ex-spouse.

Having dealt with this issue in several past cases and encountering the difficulties in successfully proving grounds to reduce maintenance when there is cohabitation by an ex-spouse, an amendment to the statute was long overdue. There have been many abuses where a party has moved in an employed new significant other and continues to receive spousal maintenance forcing an unfair situation and allowing parties to double dip or, in effect, have a former spouse subsidize a comfortable standard of living for a significant other even though that individual has the financial resources or income to contribute to household expenses.

Unfortunately the amendment is watered down and still makes it difficult to prove  up a case for reduction or termination of maintenance. There are many states that create a presumption that cohabitation leads to a rebuttable presumption that grounds have been met to terminate spousal maintenance.  In this amendment the law now provides that in determining whether spousal maintenance should be reduced, suspended or reserved the court should consider: (1) whether an obligee would marry a cohabitant but for the maintenance award; (2) the economic benefit the obligee derives from the cohabitation; (3) the length of the cohabitation and the likely future duration of the cohabitation; and (4) the economic impact on the obligee if maintenance is modified and cohabitation ends.

In my opinion the new law falls far short of what was needed and invites new speculation and continuing litigation by allowing the suspension or reservation of spousal maintenance. The key will be how courts going forward interpret the new amendment.

Due to the myriad of factors to be analyzed in a cohabitation modification case it is essential you immediately obtain an experienced divorce attorney when confronted with this issue.

Gray Divorces Are Increasing!

A recent development is that in the last several years I have represented many individuals in their fifties and even sixties who are commencing divorces after many years of marriage. Twenty years ago I rarely ever represented fifty plus aged people in divorces.

Many experts are writing about the reasons for this reality. I wish to share an interesting article from the Huffington Post:

The 5 Big Reasons Why Couples Divorce After Decades Of Marriage
Here’s what to do before it’s too late.
Mar 20, 2016
Linda Melone Next Avenue
By Linda Melone
If you or someone you know recently divorced after 20 or more years together, you’re not alone. Splitting up later in life, sometimes called “gray divorce,” is on the upswing. In 2010, one in four divorces occurred among people age 50 and above and the 50-plus set was more than twice as likely to be divorced than in 1990, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

But why do couples split up after so much time together? And how can you prevent this from happening in your marriage?

There are five big reasons why couples divorce after decades of marriage:
1. They Grow Apart
The process that leads to gray divorce isn’t typically a sudden event or trigger, says Stan Tatkin, author of Wired For Love. Rather, it often happens slowly over time. “It’s like an unbreakable plate you drop repeatedly,” he says. “The relationship develops microcracks inside the structure you can’t see. Then it finally reaches a critical mass and shatters.”

Hormonal changes that arise with age can cause significant shifts in sex drive.

— Jessica O’Reilly, author of ‘The New Sex Bible’

It’s a reason many couples that split late in life say they’ve simply grown apart. This usually comes as a shock to close friends and family, such as when Al and Tipper Gore separated in 2010 after 40 years of marriage.

An undercurrent of dissatisfaction can happen for a number of reasons, but several dominant themes crop up regularly, says Tatkin. “Often one person — usually the woman — feels she’s given up too much. She may have put aside her career as she raised the children. She feels the wear and tear of the relationship because it wasn’t collaborative.”

2. Their Age
Other times age is a factor. A big age difference that was not an issue at the beginning of a relationship may become a problem later in life, Tatkin says. Or people may hit middle-age and crave a reboot.

Tatkin explains that people go through physiological and biological “brain upgrades” at certain times in their lives, including at age 15 and again at 40. “Every time you experience one you want to go back [in time],” he says. Starting a relationship with a younger person satisfies this urge for some people.

3. They’re Bored
Steve Siebold, a psychological performance and mental toughness coach and author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of The World Class, cites boredom as a factor. “Being around the same person 24/7, depending on the relationship, can lead to boredom,” he says. In other cases, people stop trying. “You work hard, play hard and take care of business, but you’ve stopped being the attentive, attractive spouse. You’ve allowed yourself to become complacent.”

4. Their Money Issues
Differences in spending habits and financial difficulties may finally come to a head cause a break-up. One spouse may be a big spender while the other likes to save, Siebold says. “The kids’ activities, expenses and college funds eat the family’s discretionary cash and you’re deep in debt,” he notes.

5. Sex
Sexual incompatibility can become more pronounced, says Jessica O’Reilly, author of The New Sex Bible and Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “Hormonal changes that arise with age can cause significant shifts in sex drive. And though every couple of every age experiences differentials in desire, these can become more pronounced with age.”

Couples who may be heading down the path to divorce can take steps to pull themselves back with these five tips:

1. Put the Relationship First
You should be about protecting each other in harsh environments and have each other’s back, says Tatkin. “You must become experts for each other and protect each other in private and public — and never threaten the relationship.” In addition, Tatkin says, couples should have a strong sense of why they’re together. “Know the purpose that you serve as a couple,” he says.

2. Take Care of Yourself
Gaining weight, not exercising and dressing slovenly sends a message to your spouse that you don’t care anymore, says Siebold. “Try cutting the carbs, trimming the fat and heading to the gym,” he advises.

3. Assess Your Role in the Problem
Before you give up on your marriage, look in the mirror, says Siebold. “If there’s a boring person staring back at you, you may be the problem,” he notes.

And if that is the case, Siebold suggests making a decision to create some excitement in your life. Plan a new adventure together, start a new business, learn a language or develop a new skill together. These activities create new stories and may reignite your passion.

4. Talk About Sex
Couples who talk about their sexual expectations, changing needs and vulnerabilities can manage their differences, O’Reilly says. “Communication is essential. As your body changes you need to discuss what feels good both physically and emotionally to cultivate intimacy,” she adds.

5. Talk About Everything Else, Too
Lastly, Tatkin says you both need to tell each other everything. That’s the only way to work out your problems.


My experience is that a reality is that people change and often grow apart and have different interests after their children are grown and move on with their individual new lives. It appears people also often have less patience and are unwilling to live under the control of a bossy financially or emotionally controlling spouse realizing they are not going to live forever and want to pursue what they deem satisfying and rewarding. They no longer focus on the children’s needs, but their own, which now have changed.

The reality is it is important to retain an experienced divorce attorney in a grey divorce as often times your best earning years are behind you and it is important to obtain a fair and equitable property settlement and sometimes spousal maintenance to secure your financial future. Dividing pensions, retirement assets, or businesses and real estate can often be complicated. Promptly seek an experienced divorce attorney if you find yourself in this now common scenario.

Jeff from Arrigoni Law has 33 years experience as an attorney and has been practicing exclusively in family law, divorce, and mediation for over 27 years and will work hard to protect your rights and secure an equitable fair settlement.

Court Reverses Trial Court Permanent Spousal Maintenance Award And Directs Rehabilitative Maintenance and Also Directs Smaller Monthly Sum

In Spolum v. D’Amato, A14-1335, A14-1720 (Minn. App. August 17, 2015)  the Court of Appeals reversed a Ramsey County  trial court decision awarding Permanent Spousal Maintenance and remanded to the trial court to recalculate Spolum’s  monthly expenses, D’Amato’s income, and to reduce the monthly maintenance award of $14,072 and further held only Rehabilitative Spousal Maintenance was appropriate.

D’Amato, an orthopedic surgeon, and Spolum, a flight attendant, were married in 2001 and had one son, born in 2003. The parties separated in July 2010.  A legal separation action was started and then the parties attempted reconciliation but continued to live separately. A divorce trial began in August 2013. At that time, Spolum was age 49 and D’Amato was age 45.

To plan for the wedding, Spolum took a leave of absence as a flight attendant and extended it after the 911 attack and returned to work 5 years later. She quit in 2006 because her commute was stressful. She is high school educated with some college and art school classes.

Spolum worked at a clothing boutique and as a yoga instructor. When the parties reconciled she opened a chocolate shop, but the business failed. Trial evidence reflected she was “brilliant and creative”.  She was interested in animal-welfare and was on the board of directors for an animal-welfare organization. Spolum desired to establish a career as an animal welfare advocate. A vocational rehabilitation evaluation was completed concluding without additional training she could work in a position earning between $10-$12 an hour, but could attend a two year vocational program.

During the marriage D’Amato was let go in a physician practice. He applied to Health Partners. He was initially rejected, but Spolum testified she invited the head of HealthPartners to their home to advocate for reconsideration and D’Amato was then hired.  D’Amato also began a second job as an independent medical-legal consultant, working approximately 20 hours a week. Near the end of 2011 D’Amato quit the second job as it was time-consuming and stressful causing him anxiety and to be unhealthy. He testified he was already working 50 hours a week at HealthPartners.

D’Amato testified his earning in 2013 would be $800,000 and that he was seeing fewer patients as they were being diverted to other doctors. The Director of HealthPartners testified there has been a decrease in patient volume and surgeries. D’Amato’s income has been decreasing since 2011 and he predicted this trend would continue. He could earn additional income based on his production, but patients were decreasing. D’Amato testified he projected his salary in 2014 to be $750,000. D’Amato proposed the court use his 2013 income of $800,000 and that he pay spousal maintenance for 4 years to allow Spolum to acquire employment and training.

In the Judgment the trial court set D’Amato’s income at $950,538 using a 3 year average and despite finding he had quit his second job to create a more balanced life. The  judge stated that in the event the court overestimated his income D’Amato was in a better position to correct the error by pursuing additional options.

The trial court found Spolum’s discretionary spending at $9,943 per month and then modified that to $8,383 based on D’Amato’s claim this was even higher than she requested. In the original decision the court ordered $18,225 per month in spousal maintenance which was subsequently amended to $14,072 after post-trial motions. Apparently the trial court made findings concerning Spolum’s earning capacity and ability to re-enter the job market, but ignored those facts in making it a permanent maintenance award. The court found she was in good physical and emotional health and found no reason why she could not pursue a successful career because she was healthy, intelligent, articulate, creative, and capable.

The court found permanent spousal maintenance was appropriate based on: (1) the high marital standard of living, (2) the length of the marriage, (3) Spolum will never be able to support herself in the manner close to the marital standard of living, and (4) the fact D’Amato’s income would not decrease. Spolum was awarded $1.2 million dollars in assets, including the Caribbean home “Seacliff” which D’Amato requested be sold and artwork of $110,000, but found the assets were not available until retirement.

The court of appeals reversed the amount and duration of the award and stated Permanent Spousal Maintenance was not warranted and that the award should be Rehabilitative. The court explained a court may award spousal maintenance (1) if a spouse lacks sufficient property, including allocated property to provide for reasonable needs considering the standard of living, or (2) is unable to provide self-support through appropriate employment, in light of the standard of living. Minn Stat. 518.552, subd.1.  In determining an award the court should evaluate (1) the financial resources of the requesting party, including marital property awarded to the party, and the party’s ability to meet needs independently, (2) time necessary to become self-supporting, (3) marital standard of living, (4) duration of marriage, (5) loss of employment benefits and opportunities foregone by requesting party, (6) age, physical condition, and emotional condition of the requesting party, (7) ability of the obligor to meet the needs of both parties, and (8) contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, and depreciation of marital property. Minn. Stat. 518.552, subd. 2.

The court stated the trial court put an overriding emphasis on the standard of living, which was merely one factor to be considered. The court did not agree the assets awarded to Spolum were not available until retirement. The court held the evidence and findings support an award of rehabilitative maintenance, not permanent spousal maintenance. The court noted the standard of living was over emphasized because Spolum also testified the standard of living was excessive and unnecessary and was a mistake and was based on D’Amato previously working two jobs and that it was unfair to consider a lifestyle based on income from a prior second job that contributed an average of additional income of $200,00 per year. The court also stated the parties had only lived together as husband and wife for 9 years. It noted prior to the marriage Spolum made $46,000 annually as a flight attendant. The court stated the evidence only supported a rehabilitative award.

The court also stated the trial court failed to consider Spolum’s dubious use of assets during the separation where she transferred $125,000 from the parties’ joint account and only had $40,000 left.

The  court stated the trial court’s finding of the need for discretionary spending of $8,343 per month was excessive. The court also found the trial court clearly erred in finding D’Amato’s income was $950,838 and that spousal maintenance should be based on the obligor’s income at the time of trial. The court noted it was unreasonable for a court to require D’Amato to work a second job in order to satisfy a maintenance award when Spolum is not required to work even one job.

The issue of spousal maintenance is a very difficult matter and requires careful evaluation of numerous factors and often the assistance of experts, including an experienced family law attorney. It is critical to promptly retain an experienced divorce lawyer if spousal maintenance is a potential issue.

Spousal Maintenance Extended Because Karon Waiver Was Ineffective without Specific Provisions in the Decree and Judgment

Spousal Maintenance Extended Because Karon Waiver Was Ineffective without Specific Provisions in the Decree and Judgment

In Hietpas v. Reed, A14-0105 (Minn. Ct. App. Dec. 8, 2014), the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a district court order modifying spousal maintenance because the judgment and decree did not have a proper Karon waiver. The parties had divorced in May 2008, and the agreement provided for spousal maintenance of $3,650 until Dec. 31, 2012, when maintenance was to end.   The agreement recited that the wife waived future maintenance after Dec. 31, 2012 based on a Karon waiver, the length of the marriage, and her ability to earn sufficient income to support herself and the minor children.

Requirements of a Karon Waiver

Because the courts have no jurisdiction to modify spousal maintenance when the parties execute a Karon waiver, the court first held that the decree did not include a proper Karon waiver.   There are four requirements for a valid Karon waiver:

  1. The stipulation includes a contractual waiver of the parties’ right to modify spousal maintenance.
  2. The stipulation expressly provides that the district court has been divested of jurisdiction over maintenance.
  3. The stipulation is incorporated into the final judgment and decree.
  4. The court has specifically found “that the stipulation is fair and equitable, is supported by consideration described in the findings, and that full disclosure of each party’s financial circumstances has occurred.”

The first two requirements, the contractual waiver and express language regarding jurisdiction, are required to divest the court of jurisdiction. In this case, there was no dispute that the judgment and decree included the contractual waiver; the problem was the absence of specific language in the decree stating that the court was divested of jurisdiction over future motions. Although the hearing on the agreement included testimony by the wife that she understood that the court would not have jurisdiction to entertain a motion to continue maintenance, the judgment and decree did not contain specific language regarding divestiture of jurisdiction or language incorporating the stipulation in court. Further, there were no specific findings that the agreement was fair and equitable. The court held that referencing the Karon waiver in the agreement was not sufficient because the Karon waiver limits the court’s jurisdiction as well as the party’s ability to modify the support order.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals also held that, given the parties’ extended conflict, the court did not abuse its discretion or lose jurisdiction by waiving the requirement that the parties engage in mediation.

Modification of Spousal Maintenance

The Court of Appeals also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in modifying spousal maintenance. The parties had stipulated at the time of the divorce that the wife would be capable of earning at least $50,000 annually by the time maintenance ceased. The wife was an attorney, and she earned $48,400 in 2012, including eight months of employment in a position that she lost due to insufficient workload, unemployment insurance, and short-term work. She had applied for many jobs and had registered with four employment search organizations. The district court found she did not have the ability to earn the amount contemplated in the judgment and decree because of her difficulty both in finding work and, more significantly, keeping a job. The district court included that her potential annual income at the time of the motion was $32,597.

The Court of Appeals held that the district court did not err in finding that the wife’s mental health problems affected her ability to earn income even though the wife had testified that she lost her high paying job because of a lack of work, not her performance or mental health problem. It concluded that her testimony did not mean that her mental health problems had not prevented her from meeting her job’s billable hours requirement or finding another similar high-paying job.

It found that the wife’s income was more than 20% less than the $50,000 that had been estimated at the time of the divorce, and that amount created a presumption of a substantial change of circumstances, leading to a rebuttable presumption that the existing maintenance award was unfair. It held that the five-year extension of additional maintenance was supported by the record. It held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to consider evidence that the wife had recently been hired for a $52,000 job, as it was not evidence that she would be able to sustain employment, which was her particular problem.

The Court of Appeals held that the district court did abuse its discretion by prohibiting the husband from bringing a motion to modify spousal maintenance for twelve months, as there could be many reasons under Minnesota law, Minnesota Statute Section 518A.39 subd. 2, why a motion to modify spousal maintenance would be appropriate other than a change in the wife’s income, including a change in the husband’s income.

This case illustrates the importance of having good legal advice in crafting an order and judgment dissolving a marriage. If you need a divorce or are considering a motion to modify an order and judgment dissolving a marriage, you may find it useful to consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Minnesota Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Spousal Maintenance Award to Wife Who Is Receiving Disability Benefits

Minnesota Court of Appeals Upholds Denial of Spousal Maintenance Award to Wife Who Is Receiving Disability Benefits

In Rakow v. Rakow, A#14-281 (Minn. Ct. App. (Dec. 8, 2014)(unpublished), the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a district court decision denying current spousal maintenance payments while reserving a future award to a wife who was receiving Social Security disability benefits due to a work-related injury, noting that the district court had awarded the wife a larger share of the couple’s property than the husband received. The couple had been married for ten years when the wife petitioned to dissolve the marriage and asked for permanent spousal maintenance, and they apparently did not have any children.


Spousal Support in Minnesota

The Court of Appeals noted that district courts have broad discretion in awarding spousal maintenance. Under Minnesota Statutes Section 518.003, subd. 3a, spousal maintenance “is an award of payments from the future income or earnings of one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other.” Further, under Minnesota Statute Section 518.552, subd. 1, a district court can award spousal maintenance to a spouse if she

  1. lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage, especially, but not limited to a period of training or education, or
  2. is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances, through appropriate employment . . .

That statute, in subdivision B, sets out eight factors that should be considered, along with other relevant factors in awarding spousal maintenance:

  • the resources of the party seeking maintenance, including the property settlement and their ability to meet their needs;
  • the time to complete education and training to become self-sufficient and the likelihood, given the spouse’s age and skills, of becoming full or partially self-sufficient;S
  • the marital standard of living;
  • the length of the marriage and, in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which earning capacity was diminished due to the time out of the workforce;
  • the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities forgone by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;
  • the age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
  • the ability of the spouse who is being asked to pay maintenance to meet needs while also meeting the other spouse’s needs; and
  • each party’s contribution to the amount or value of marital property as well as a homemaker’s contribution to furthering the other party’s employment or business.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals found that the district court had adequately considered the relevant factors. In this case, while the wife had not worked at all since August 2012 and her doctor had not been released to work by her doctor, she was planning on back surgery in the next few months which could enable her to return to work. The court noted that she injured her back in a work-related injury and had not lost any income or employment opportunities because of her marriage, and she had worked until her injury.

Further, the court noted that the standard of living during the marriage was beyond the parties’ means, as they had incurred debt to maintain their standard of living, including mortgage debt, loans, and credit card debt.

The court noted that the wife’s monthly income was $1,373 while her monthly expenses totaled $3,108, leaving a deficit of $1,735. In comparison, the husband’s monthly income was $5,108.55 with reasonable monthly expenses of $5,146.68, for a deficit of $38.13. The court did not compare the parties’ post-divorce living expenses or compare them to the parties’ marital standard of living.

The court had taken into consideration the parties’ economic circumstances in crafting the property settlement. Thus, the wife was awarded the entire $14,575 in motor vehicle value and one half of the marital portion of the husband’s pension and his entire employment thrift savings plan, which was more than $20,000, while the husband was to be solely liable for the negative home equity balance, which was close to $70,000.

If the wife is unable to return to work, or she exhausts the property settlement, or her circumstances otherwise change, she would be able to petition for an award of spousal maintenance as the court did reserve the ability to make a future maintenance award.

In any case in which spousal maintenance is an issue, it is useful to consult with an attorney experienced in family law.