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Spousal maintenance, also called alimony, allows a lower-earning spouse to retain a standard of living similar to the one that he or she enjoyed during the marriage. Once this arrangement has been established, under what circumstances can it be changed?

The alimony process aims to create fair results based on the marriage’s history, the spouses’ educational and financial backgrounds and many other factors. From the court’s perspective, ideally, once alimony has been established, the arrangement should be followed unless circumstances change drastically. Minnesota courts generally do allow for spousal maintenance payments to be modified in the following six cases.

1.    Mistakes. For example, when the court originally calculated monthly payments, a clerical error set alimony to last for two extra years. Such simple mistakes are generally easily corrected.

2.    New evidence affects your case. For instance, your ex spouse enjoys a sudden surge of income due to a promotion or, conversely, suddenly starts struggling financially after a major business deal blows up, eliminating her main source of cash flow.

3.    Fraud, misconduct, falsification of documents or misrepresentation. For instance, your spouse intentionally hid assets in part to avoid having to pay his share during the divorce.

4.    Satisfaction of the judgment or order. Spousal support is not always forever. Depending on the length of the marriage and other factors, alimony may just be a temporary measure to provide the receiving spouse with time and space to find work or retrain. Once he has completed schooling and/or obtained a job, the purpose of the spousal support is satisfied, and the court might then reduce or eliminate the monthly payments.

5.    Vacating the judgment or order. The courts can overturn a prior order and update it with a new order.

6.    Major life, health and relationship changes. For instance, the remarriage of the either spouse can dramatically affect the financial picture. If a woman receiving substantial alimony remarries a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, for instance, the court may decide that she no longer needs or qualifies for spousal maintenance.
Even when couples come to agreement about alimony outside of court, a judge can be called in to rule on the matter. In Minnesota, the judge has a significant amount of flexibility. In general, the longer the marriage lasted and the greater the income disparity, the greater the award will be.

Exceptions to Spousal Support Modification

In some cases, the parties agree ahead of time in a pre- or post-nuptial agreement or in the divorce settlement that they will not change alimony amounts, no matter the circumstances. However, the court must agree to such stipulations and determine that they are fair to both parties. Minnesota courts call this a Karon waiver based on a 1989 case.

Need Help Updating Your Spousal Maintenance?

If you want to modify to your spousal maintenance payments, call the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. at (763) 783-5146 for a private consultation.