“Maintenance” or “alimony” is an award of payments made in a divorce or legal separation proceeding from the future income or earnings of one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other.  Minn. Stat. §518.003, subd. 3a.

The court may grant a spousal maintenance order if it finds that the party asking for maintenance:

  • Lacks sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs considering the standard of living during the marriage especially (but not limited to) a period of training or education, or
  • Is not able to provide self-support, after considering the marital standard of living and all relevant circumstances, through employment, or
  • Is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not be required to seek employment outside of the home.

[Minn. Stat. §518.552, subd. 1(a)-(b)].

So, an appropriate candidate for spousal maintenance is someone who needs support during training or education necessary to secure self-supporting employment, who is unable to self-support to a standard of living similar to during the marriage, or who has custody of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate that the parent stay home.  A person who has significant financial resources available to provide for reasonable needs is not an appropriate candidate for an award of spousal support.

Similarly, a party’s request for spousal support cannot result in a change from the parties’ marital standard of living.  For instance, it would not be appropriate for a party to ask for spousal maintenance in the amount of $10,000 per month when the couple collectively spent $5,000 per month while they were married.  If a party would like to make a standard of living change, the change may not work in their favor.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a permanent spousal award in Chamberlain reasoning that the long-standing affluent lifestyle of the parties was an appropriate factor to consider.  Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405 (Minn.App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Oct. 25, 2000).  The court noted, “that the marital standard of living is an important part of the analysis; it was inserted into the maintenance statute as a required consideration at not just one, but three, places.  Minn. Stat. §518.552, subds. 1(a), (b), 2(c).”  Id.  In this case, even though the wife had her own successful career and the ability to support herself, the court awarded her permanent maintenance because additional funds were necessary in order for her to duplicate her marital standard of living.  Id.


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