Alimony can be an important part of the divorce process, but not all individuals preparing to end their marriages understand what it actually is or how it is determined. In Minnesota, the process of seeking alimony is started with the filing of a petition and proceeds to further information gathering before an award is made. Based on the circumstances of the individual parties to a divorce, the outcome of the alimony process can look very different from how it resolves in other legal situations.
The following information about alimony should not be read as legal guidance, and all legal advice should be sought from knowledgeable family law attorneys who practice in the readers’ jurisdictions. This post is not a complete discussion of all alimony-related legal topics.
1. Not every divorce involves alimony
It might be easy to assume that all divorces involve an award of alimony, but this is not true. In order for alimony to be sought by one of the parties to a divorce, that party must file a petition for it. In situations where the parties to a divorce will both emerge with sufficient assets and incomes on which they may live their post-divorce lives, neither party may choose to seek alimony from the other.
2. Can last for varying lengths of time
There is no standard length of time that an award of alimony will last. Generally, longer marriages that end in divorce produce longer awards of alimony, but many factors can influence the duration of time that alimony must be paid. In Minnesota, alimony can be temporary, award for a short term, or may be awarded as a permanent source of support for the recipient.
3. Available to both spouses
In the past, women were more likely to seek alimony than men due to the traditional gender roles that they played within their marriages and families. However, as women have become a dominant force in workplaces throughout the country, they have also taken some control over becoming the primary breadwinners in their relationships. Either party to a divorce, regardless of their gender, may petition for alimony.
4. Driven by individual factors
Before an award of alimony is granted, a court will look at many factors to decide if it is warranted, how much should be granted, and for how long the award should last. The ages and health of the parties may be considered, as may their access to income or other financial resources. As stated, the length of the parties’ marriage may be a factor in their alimony award, and their standard of living may also impact the amount of alimony the paying party will be obligated to provide. As all divorces are different, it is important that readers recognize their alimony factors may yield varying outcomes.
5. Not the same as child support
When a party seeks alimony during their divorce, they do so because they do not believe that they will have enough money to support themselves without it. Alimony is related to a divorcing party’s financial situation, and not the financial situation of their kids. During a divorce, the parties may also work out child support, which is directly related to the assignment of financial resources from the parties to the needs and interests of their children. Child support and alimony are two independent financial obligations that may be established during a divorce.
Like other divorce-related topics, alimony is nuanced and complex. It can take on different forms based on the characteristics of individual divorce cases. The counsel of a family law attorney can be valuable to an individual who is uncertain about their options regarding divorce.