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Rising Number of Women Ordered to Make Alimony Payments After Divorce

Couples divorcing in Minnesota have a wide array of issues to consider throughout the process. In addition to child support payments, some spouses will be ordered to pay alimony – also referred to as spousal maintenance – following the divorce.

Experts have noted in recent years that the nature of alimony payments has changed, as women have joined the workforce in large numbers. In the past, the former husband was typically ordered to make spousal maintenance payments to his ex-wife, sometimes for a lifetime. Historically, men were the sole or primary breadwinners in the family, and alimony payments served as a way to protect the wife who had worked in the home throughout the marriage.

These days, the landscape of marriage has changed, as the number of women who earn more than their husbands increases every year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 37 percent of married women in the United States earned more than their spouses in 2011, which included women who were the sole or primary breadwinner in the family. In addition, in households where both spouses worked, 28 percent of women had higher earnings than their significant other.

These statistics have been increasing annually for the past few decades. In 1991, fewer than 27 percent of women were the sole or primary breadwinner in their family. During the same year, only around 20 percent of women in dual-earning households earned more than their husbands.

Alimony Laws in Minnesota

In Minnesota, either spouse can be ordered to make spousal maintenance payments following a divorce. Under Minnesota law, the alimony award can be temporary or permanent, depending on a variety of factors outlined in the statute.

For instance, the court can consider whether the party seeking the maintenance order is able to meet his or her own financial needs alone. In addition, Minnesota courts can determine the amount and length of an alimony award based on whether one party requires time to obtain additional training to find a suitable job. Some of the other factors the court can consider include:

  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage, and the length of a spouse’s absence from the workforce
  • Loss of earnings, employment opportunities and retirement benefits
  • The age, emotional and physical condition of the spouse requesting alimony

As the issues involved in seeking a spousal maintenance award can be complex, it is wise for individuals in such situations to consult with an attorney. A skilled family law attorney can ensure the individual’s rights are protected throughout the divorce process.