Minnesota Spousal Maintenance Laws

By Bernadette A. Safrath

When spouses divorce, one spouse may be eligible for "spousal maintenance." This is money you receive from your ex-spouse upon divorce if you are unable to support yourself with your income and assets alone. The Minnesota Statutes set forth the procedure courts use to determine who may receive maintenance and the amount of the maintenance award.


Minnesota law requires that a spouse seeking maintenance establish eligibility. You must show the need for maintenance based on one of the requirements set forth in Minnesota Statute 518.552. If you have custody of young children and are unable to work, for example, the court may award maintenance. You may also receive maintenance if there are not sufficient assets to "provide for the reasonable needs" you have. Finally, if you do not earn an income sufficient enough to be self-supporting, the court is permitted to award maintenance.

Temporary Vs. Permanent Maintenance

Spousal maintenance in Minnesota can be temporary or permanent. Temporary maintenance is designed to be rehabilitative, to allow the receiving spouse time to obtain employment with a sufficient income. Generally, if you are 45 or younger, the court will award alimony for about five years and expect you to complete education or training, if necessary, to obtain better employment. If your marriage lasted for less than five years, you are not entitled to maintenance. If your marriage lasted for more than 25 years, a court will generally award permanent maintenance.

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Amount and Duration

The court examines several factors when setting the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Minnesota requires a court to consider each spouse's age, length of the marriage, spouses' standard of living, each spouse's percentage of the marital property award, each spouse's income, time the receiving spouse may need to complete an education or training program, and the owing spouse's ability to pay.


Either spouse can petition for an increase, decrease, temporary suspension or extension of spousal maintenance. The court will modify the award if the petitioning spouse can prove that a "substantial change of circumstances" occurred. Such a change can include a significant change in income, loss of employment or diagnosis of a serious illness leading to an inability to work.


Even when a maintenance award is permanent, payments can terminate early in certain situations. Under Minnesota law, both temporary and permanent maintenance terminates immediately upon the death of either spouse. Additionally, if a receiving spouse remarries, her right to maintenance ends.

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