If my soon-to-be ex-spouse earns more than me, will I be awarded alimony?

In many marriages, one spouse is considered the breadwinner. In some cases, one parent may choose to stay home with young children. In other cases, both spouses may work, but one earns a much higher income. In other cases, one spouse may financially support the other while he or she pursues a higher degree or some other personal or professional pursuit.

Marriage is about compromise and couples must often negotiate to find a workable solution that meets their personal and financial needs. In cases where a couple later divorces, the financial standing of each spouse as well as the compromises and sacrifices that were made during a marriage must be taken into account when deciding matters related to alimony or spousal maintenance.

In divorce cases where one spouse petitions for alimony, a judge will take numerous factors into consideration including: 

  • Length of the marriage
  • Age and physical and mental health of both spouses
  • Standard of living enjoyed by both spouses during the marriage
  • Income potential of economically disadvantaged spouse and estimated time required to financially rebound
  • Ability of economically advantaged spouse to pay alimony

In years past, lifetime alimony was often awarded to an economically disadvantaged spouse. Today, many states have taken steps to amend alimony laws and there are typically time limits associated with the terms of a spousal maintenance order. These terms may dictate that alimony is paid for a certain number of years or until the individual receiving payments remarries. In cases where, despite a court order, an ex-spouse refuses to pay alimony, legal action may be necessary. 

Minnesota residents who are planning to divorce and interested in learning more about alimony, would be wise to discuss their situation with a divorce attorney. Additionally, individuals who are interested in learning about how to modify or reduce the amount of alimony they are paying should also contact an attorney. 

Source: FindLaw.com, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics," 2014


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