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How does education factor into alimony orders?

Perhaps you helped your spouse through school financially, or you stayed at home with the kids while your spouse obtained an advanced degree. Does that count for alimony / spousal maintenance purposes? What if you (or your spouse) don't have the education necessary to get a reasonable job?

Alimony in Minnesota

During a Minnesota divorce, a court may award alimony to a spouse who lacks sufficient property to meet the standard of living he or she experienced during marriage; is unable to provide enough support for himself / herself through appropriate employment; or is taking care of a child who requires around-the-clock care.

A court may award temporary or permanent alimony. Oftentimes, courts will award alimony / maintenance for the amount of time necessary for the supported spouse to get the education or training he or she needs to obtain a job. This is often a positive solution for both parties - the alimony award is not permanent and the supported spouse is able to develop lifelong job skills.

Alimony factors: education

Courts have wide latitude in determining the length and amount of a spousal maintenance order. Under Minnesota's maintenance law, they must consider a list of factors provided by the Minnesota Legislature, as well as any other "relevant factors." Factors included in this list that impact training / education include:

  • "The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, and the probability, given the party's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming fully or partially self-supporting;
  • "The duration of the marriage, and, in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience have become outmoded and earning capacity has become permanently diminished;
  • "The loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities forgone by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;
  • "The contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or in furtherance of the other party's employment or business."

As you can see, when determining alimony / spousal maintenance, Minnesota courts must take into account a spouse's contribution to the other's education as well as a spouse's ability to obtain a job.

Source: Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes, Section 518.552, "Maintenance," Subd. 1 and 2, 2011.

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