On July 31st we had legal expert Zach Smith from Vox Law come in to speak to the group about spousal maintenance trends and things to consider about custody.
This was a fantastic meeting filled with great information. I even learned some new things and I’ve been at this for eight years!
We discussed spousal maintenance for about 45 minutes. Then we broke up into groups of two or three to discuss each person’s situation. Each group listed two or three additional questions that we later answered in a large group discussion for about 40 minutes.
Spousal Maintenance Tips from the Expert
In Minnesota there are essentially two types of spousal maintenance: Permanent and Temporary. However, there is no formula for spousal maintenance in Minnesota law.
- Permanent: Really what this means is that there is a clause in the divorce decree that states maintenance shall be paid “until further order from the court”. This is a rare ruling and usually only occurs for long duration marriages (more than 20 years), when the two parties are close to retirement age. Judges’ decisions vary and factors they consider include: ability to support yourself independently; if not, the ability of the other person to provide some level of support. It’s not about equalizing income and based off the ability to earn (see the Minnesota Supreme Court decision Passolt v Passolt). Lastly, “permanent” usually means until you retire.
- Temporary: There is a set term in your divorce decree. The other person can go back to court to change it unless there is a Karon waiver (see 1989 MN Supreme Court decision Karon v Karon). The Karon waiver essentially strips the court from any further decision-making ability regarding your spousal maintenance situation. Temporary maintenance is much more popular and typically occurs in shorter term marriages (less than 10 to 15 years), where incomes are relatively similar (after child support payments) and one party may need a little financial help to establish his/herself. Again judges’ decisions may vary greatly (even the same judge). Factors include the duration of the marriage, the income differences, and the ability of both parties to support their self.
- Karon Waiver: The good thing about a Karon waiver is that maintenance cannot change. The bad thing is, maintenance cannot change (even if you become disabled or lose your job).
- Imputed Income: If one person is unemployed or underemployed, the other party can seek imputed income, which is based on the potential earning capacity. A vocational evaluation can be done to determine earning capacity and typically costs $2,000 to $2,500.
Other Topics Covered During the Meeting
- Don’t let a mediator or friend write your decree. Untrained individuals are not experienced in how the decree may be interpreted in the court of law. And unless topics are specifically addressed, it can lead to more legal bills in the future.
- A non-parent ex-spouse (a stepparent) has no legal rights to see stepchildren.
- After mediation, can one party back out of the custody/parenting time agreement? Yes and No. Yes, if the mediation session is not binding and an agreement was not drafted and signed. No, if it is a binding mediation session in which the final agreement was signed by both parties.
Don’t see an answer to a question you have? You’ve got to come to a meeting! And you can also reach out to Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.