Janet L. Goehle, Attorney at Law
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Looking at the hardship of permanent alimony

Divorce proceedings are seldom clear-cut. Oftentimes, though, splitting property and parenting time in half is considered the baseline. This, of course, excludes the wild card of divorce resolutions -- alimony payments. Monthly support payments to the other spouse are possibly the most discretionary and possibly crippling aspects of a final divorce decree.

A recent news story discusses the burden that many spouses must carry for the rest of their natural lives. Oftentimes, divorces result in lifelong alimony obligations. Generally, these spousal support payments stop when the divorcee remarries. What may be frustrating, though, is that many recipients of alimony payments simply choose to not officially remarry in order to continue collecting checks. St. Paul and Minneapolis residents are not immune to this phenomenon. Minnesota law can be used to both support and condemn alimony, depending on the circumstances.

Understanding this inherently gray area of divorce law can be critical to avoiding a life obligation of paying your ex. Alimony justifiably grew out of generations of spouses that were supported solely by the man's income. A man's vow to support his wife was viewed as justification for his obligation to support her after the split. This archaic mantra, however, is no longer relevant.

Women and men today often both contribute to supporting the household. They are often both educated and capable of earning money. As a result, a monthly payment from one to the other may represent a windfall to a spouse that can readily make a living.

In some states, groups have formed to oppose permanent alimony because of this societal shift. Although permanent alimony may be a burden on individuals, in some cases it is necessary. Legitimate justifications, like disabilities or a long marriage, may lead to permanent alimony.

Source: Business Insider, "It's Sad How Many Divorcees Are Sentenced to a Life of Alimony Payments," Geoff Williams, January 28, 2013

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