There are a lot of misconceptions about spousal maintenance, but one that I hear most frequently is that your ex-spouse will get half of everything you earn from now on. However, that is not how spousal maintenance works.
The purpose of spousal maintenance is to allow both parties to continue to maintain the same standard of living as they had during the marriage. The fundamental question is whether the obligee needs help in maintaining his or her standard of living, and whether the obligor can afford to assist the obligee in meeting his or her standard of living. This is why determining each parties’ monthly expenses is so important in spousal maintenance cases.
An obligor should only be ordered to pay as much in spousal maintenance as is necessary to meet the obligee’s monthly expenses. Simply giving one half of the obligor’s income to the obligee does not sufficiently address the balancing of the obligee’s need against the obligor’s ability to pay.
Furthermore, after a spousal maintenance award is in place, an increase in income for the obligor does not mean that the obligee is automatically entitled to receive half of that increased income. As the Minnesota Supreme Court stated in Snyder v. Snyder, “The purpose of alimony is to care for the [obligee]’s needs after divorce, not to provide [him or her] with a lifetime profit-sharing plan.” 298 Minn. 43, 53, 212 N.W.2d 875 (1973).