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Is Permanent Alimony a Life Sentence?

Most people believe they are going to be married for the rest of their lives when they say their wedding vows. Unfortunately, they don’t always consider the fact that something may happen that will lead to the demise of the marriage. Because of this, unexpected things can happen.

Alimony is one of those things that happen after divorce. When one spouse earns more than the other, the higher earning spouse will have a financial responsibility to the other. If the former spouse receiving the alimony payments doesn’t remarry, then the payments continue until they pass away or the spouse making the payments pass away. In other words, the payer can pay for the rest of their natural life. Even if the one receiving payments lives with a significant other that they are not married to, they can continue to receive payments. This is something that is happening more and more.

But even those who are not fans of permanent alimony state that there are good reasons for it. A disability is the perfect example, especially if that disability prevents the former spouse receiving the payments from work or their ability to work is limited. On the other hand, permanent alimony is viewed as a way for a person who made the mistake of marrying the wrong person pay for it for the rest of their life.

Even payments from lottery winnings typically end after 20 years, while permanent alimony can continue even through retirement, although the amount of payments can be reduced by the court. Unfortunately, a number of senior citizens find themselves losing a portion of their Social Security check to a former spouse.

The following is an example of this: In 2003, a man divorced his wife and then remarried in 2005. He was ordered to pay his ex wife $80,000 per year in alimony. That was 30% of his income. When the recession occurred and his income decreased, the annual amount was lowered to $71,000. Unfortunately, that $71,000 was 57% of his annual income.

So why does this form of alimony exist?

It exists because the breadwinning spouse supported the dependent spouse. The dependent spouse may not be able to survive on their income alone or they may have no income at all. Typically, alimony is awarded when there is a need and usually only for a fixed amount of time. Minnesota awards alimony for the purpose of having an income while working toward finding another job, going to school, or achieving a raise or increase in position at a current job. Once that goal is achieved or the receiving spouse remarries, alimony stops.

The reason why Minnesota puts limits on alimony is to prevent individuals from being deterred from working to better their lives. It is also designed to keep the paying spouse from having to pay for the rest of their lives. There are instances in which alimony is paid longer, but they are rare. But as long as there is a valid need, payments may have to be made.