How to Avoid Paying Alimony in Minnesota
Going through a divorce in Minnesota can be a stressful and uncertain time, especially when concerns about paying spousal maintenance arise. Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance, is financial support paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. It is intended to help maintain the receiving spouse’s standard of living.
However, alimony is not mandated in every divorce. You can take steps to avoid or limit alimony payments through negotiations and settlement agreements.
What is Alimony, and How is it Determined in Minnesota?
Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, refers to court-ordered payments made by one ex-spouse to the other after a divorce. The spouse making payments is the “paying spouse,” while the recipient is the “supported spouse”.
In Minnesota, courts determine alimony on a case-by-case basis. The main factors considered are:
- Length of the marriage – The longer the marriage, the more likely alimony will be awarded.
- Income disparity – If one spouse earns significantly more than the other, alimony may help bridge the gap.
- Health and employability – If one spouse is unable to work due to health issues or lack of qualifications, alimony may be ordered.
- Standard of living – Alimony aims to allow both spouses to maintain an equal standard of living.
Alimony is intended to provide financial support, not as a punishment. Minnesota judges have wide discretion in deciding whether to award alimony, the amount, and duration.
8 Ways To Avoid Paying Alimony In Minnesota
While avoiding alimony entirely is difficult, a smart legal strategy can potentially lower payments or help terminate them early. Here are some of the most effective ways to avoid paying alimony in Minnesota:
1. Seek an Agreement Upfront
One of the best ways to avoid a costly alimony order is to reach a mutual agreement with your spouse during divorce proceedings. This could involve trading assets, securing a lump-sum buyout, or limiting payment amount and duration. Having an alimony agreement in your divorce decree gives you more control.
2. Opt for Rehabilitative Alimony
When negotiating alimony, propose rehabilitative payments, which are short-term and designed to financially support your ex while they gain skills, education, or experience to become self-sufficient. This is preferable to indefinite alimony that has no termination date.
3. Get a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement
Agreements made before or during marriage can limit alimony obligation if you divorce. While not always enforceable, they signal intent and can influence divorce proceedings. Include clear alimony terms like waiver, limits, and duration.
4. Minimize Income Disparity
Since alimony aims to balance incomes, take steps during marriage to encourage your spouse to be financially independent. Discourage reliance on your income alone. Later, avoiding raises, bonuses, or overtime around the time of separation can also minimize disparity.
5. Keep Finances Clearly Separate
Avoid mingling finances during marriage, which can make assets community property. Keep separate bank accounts, investments, and retirement savings to establish individual net worth. This makes alimony calculations simpler if you divorce.
6. Prepare Evidence of Your Spouse’s Earning Capacity
Gather evidence like resumes, qualifications, and job listings to show your ex has the ability to earn income themselves. Judges won’t award alimony based on earning potential alone, but concrete proof makes your case stronger.
7. Argue Cohabitation Ends the Need for Support
If your ex begins living with a new partner, they may no longer need financial support from you. Under Minnesota law, cohabitation may justify terminating alimony.
8. Don’t Retire Before a Modification
Retiring or voluntarily reducing your income makes it harder to later argue for reduced payments. First, petition the court for an alimony modification, then consider retirement.
When Can Alimony Obligations End in Minnesota?
Under certain conditions, Minnesota law allows for terminating alimony obligations earlier than originally ordered. This termination is not automatic, though. You must take legal action and demonstrate just cause. Common reasons alimony can end include:
- Death – Payment obligations usually end upon the death of either spouse.
- Remarriage – Getting remarried usually terminates alimony for the supported spouse.
- Cohabitation – As mentioned, evidence your ex is cohabiting with a new partner can end alimony.
- Early retirement – Reaching retirement age can be grounds for termination if not anticipated in the original order.
- Change in financial circumstances – Significantly increased income or reduced need for support may warrant termination.
To succeed in ending alimony, be proactive about gathering solid evidence to support your case and speak to a family law attorney as early as possible. The court will not simply take your ex’s word for changes in circumstances warranting termination. Proving cohabitation can be especially challenging without concrete documentation.
What Are the Risks of Not Paying Alimony?
Ignoring a spousal maintenance order is illegal. There are serious repercussions if you fall behind on payments or stop paying without court permission. Your ex-spouse can pursue enforcement action through the court. Possible penalties include:
- Contempt of court charges leading to fines or even jail time
- Garnished wages from your employer
- Seizing funds from your bank accounts
- Reporting non-payment to credit agencies, damaging your credit score
- Property liens could be placed on your home or vehicle
- Professional license suspension
- Passport denial
- Debt collection and aggressive tactics from your ex’s divorce attorney
In addition to severe legal and financial consequences, skipping alimony payments damages your integrity. Continue making payments until the court approves a modification or termination.
Consult a Minnesota Divorce Attorney for Help
Going through a divorce is difficult enough without the added stress of spousal maintenance concerns. The experienced Minneapolis family law attorneys at Martine Law are here to help guide you through the divorce process. We will aggressively defend your interests during negotiations yet maintain an amicable approach that keeps your best interests in mind.
To schedule a free consultation with a Minnesota divorce lawyer, contact Martine Law. Our office locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Lake Elmo, and Maple Grove are here to serve clients throughout the Twin Cities metro. We have the resources and determination to help you avoid an unfair alimony order.