Who Pays the Bills During a Divorce in Minnesota?

by Stephanie Reid

    Staying current with household bills and expenses can be one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce. With some divorce proceedings taking longer than one year to resolve, families often must set up a temporary strategy to make sure certain financial obligations are met while the divorce settlement is pending. Families with minor children may also enter into a temporary child support arrangement to divide the costs associated with their care. In Minnesota, the court may award temporary alimony or child support, known as pendente lite support, while the case is pending.

    Dividing Marital Assets

    Marital property is considered any property obtained during the marriage, not including inheritances, gifts, annuities or property owned by either spouse before the marriage. When spouses decide to divorce, the court will divide the property equitably and fairly based on several factors, such as each spouse's contribution to the marriage and post-divorce earning potential. The division of property also includes a division of debts, such as mortgages, car loans and credit card balances. As with all marital property, the court will divide and assign these responsibilities based on each party's financial situation and ability to make payments. While the divorce is pending, the court will try to maintain the status quo as much as possible and can issue a temporary order directing each spouse to pay certain bills and payments. The court can also issue an injunction preventing a spouse from engaging in financial impropriety, including hiding assets or refusing to pay household expenses.

    Living Situation

    Some couples choose to remain in the marital home together while the divorce is pending. In this situation, it may be possible to keep paying household expenses as before. Other couples decide to live separately during divorce proceedings. The couple may decide to assign certain bills to one another; for example, each spouse may remain responsible for their own car payment or cellular phone bill. If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement, the court may hold a hearing to decide how spouses will manage the household bills. Some courts may direct one spouse to make a monthly payment to the other spouse, who then takes care of all household payments. Others may temporarily divide bills in accordance with each spouse's monthly income amount.

    Temporary Alimony

    In Minnesota, the higher earning spouse may be required to pay temporary alimony to the other spouse during the divorce proceedings, particularly if the other spouse played a homemaking role during the marriage or earns significantly less. Known as pendente lite alimony, this temporary support can be used by the recipient to meet household financial obligations as well as help that spouse maintain the standard of living enjoyed prior to the divorce. The temporary alimony amount might become part of the final divorce order or could be adjusted as the proceedings continue.

    Children

    If the couple has minor children, the court may award temporary child support for their care during the divorce proceedings. Child support is meant to be used for the children's food, shelter and general care. Before the court can decide child support matters, it must make temporary custody and visitation arrangements in light of the children's best interests. Temporary orders relating to child support or custody can change in the event either spouse experiences a significant change in circumstances, such as a job loss or sudden disability.

    About the Author

    Stephanie Reid has been writing professionally since 2007, with work published in the Virginia Bar Association's "Family Law Quarterly" and the "Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy." She received her Juris Doctor from Regent University and her Bachelor of Arts in French and child development from Florida State University. Reid is admitted to practice law in Delaware and Maryland.

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