Statutory guidelines for spousal maintenance may be coming to Minnesota at long last. For years, Minnesota statutes have provided guidelines for child support, but not for spousal maintenance. That is to say, the statutes provide an actual formula for calculating child support, based upon income figures, number of children, and parenting schedules – a presumptive calculation that may deviated from upwards or downwards based upon the parties’ agreement or the family court’s judgment call. Having guidelines provides a higher level of certainty and predictability in marriage dissolution cases involving alimony, not to mention consistency across different courts. Without guidelines, you could take the same fact situation to ten different judges and get ten different determinations.
The statutes have not previously provided guidelines for spousal maintenance. Instead, there are factors for the court to consider in making a spousal maintenance determination, including the length of the marriage, income history, and the parties’ respective career circumstances. But there are no figures, or presumptions, to provide a range of likely possible outcomes.
In recent months, a committee from the Minnesota chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) has developed a draft of potential legislation. One focus of the reform is to address how retirement factors into the expiration of spousal maintenance obligations. The current law presumes that there will be no spousal maintenance; or that there will be spousal maintenance for a specific period of time; or that there will be “permanent maintenance” which continues until one of the parties dies, the recipient remarries, or some other significant change of circumstances. A common change of circumstances, other than death or remarriage, is retirement. Yet the current law does not address retirement with any specificity.
The AAML draft legislation will be presented to the group Minnesota Alimony Reform, which was formed in 2016 at the behest of the Minnesota State Bar Association. From there, the legislation would potentially be picked up for consideration by legislators eager to respond to the call for spousal maintenance guidelines.