Modifying Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) in Minnesota

August 23, 2012 - by Eric Anderson

Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) in Minnesota is initially determined by a court during a divorce proceeding using statutory factors set out in Minn. Stat. Section 518.552.  Once established, it can be very difficult to modify later on.  Note that parties are free to change spousal maintenance obligations by stipulated agreement.  Minn. Stat. Section 518A.39 provides the requirements to modify an existing order.  

Basically, the maintenance obligation may be modified if it can be shown that the current obligation is unreasonable and unfair.  The burden is on the party seeking the change to show why the current order is unreasonable and unfair.  Remember that spousal maintenance basically comes down to Spouse 1's reasonable need versus Spouse 2's reasonable ability to pay.  The most common reason for a modification is that the obligor suddenly loses their job or their financial circumstances change dramatically due to some unforeseen events such as health issues.  Therefore, the obligor's ability to pay has decreased substantially.  However, taking on a significant amount of unreasonable monthly expense is not a good reason to modify spousal maintenance, i.e. purchasing a lavish home that makes alimony payments unsustainable.  Another common reason for a modification is that the obligee increases their earnings beyond what was contemplated at the time of the divorce, or otherwise comes into a substantial amount of money, i.e. through a large inheritance.  Therefore, the obligee's need has decreased substantially.

In deciding a motion to modify spousal maintenance, the court reviews all relevant factors, including the statutory factors used in setting the original obligation in the divorce decree.  See the article, Alimony (Spousal Maintenance) in Minnesota, for a review of how a court sets the original obligation.  It's important to note that the court only has the authority to retroactively modify a spousal maintenance obligation back to the date the motion for modification was served.  Therefore, consult an attorney right away if you believe a spousal maintenance modification motion is warranted.

Disclaimer: No case or client-specific information shall be discussed on this website. The content provided is informational only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions about divorce or custody in Minnesota , please seek the advice of an attorney.