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Alimony and same-sex divorce in Minnesota

In the past, Minnesota courts routinely ordered men to pay alimony to their ex-wives as part of the divorce settlement. The picture of alimony has changed a lot since then. In the past, women had few career options, and courts saw alimony as many divorced women's only possible source of income. Today, women's place in the workforce has changed, and alimony has changed along with it. Indeed, it's common for women to be ordered to pay alimony to ex-husbands. And now that Minnesota has legalized same-sex marriage, courts may also order women to pay alimony to other women.

Actress Jane Lynch is currently going through a divorce after three years of marriage to Lara Embry. According to news reports, Embry is requesting alimony at the eye-popping rate of more than $93,000 per month. Embry states in court documents that she needs the money in order to keep up the lifestyle to which she has become accustomed. In recent media interviews, Lynch has downplayed any drama or conflict in the divorce, but she has fought back against the request in court.

At the end of any marriage in Minnesota, the parties must divide their marital property in a way that appears fair under state guidelines. However, even a very generous property division settlement can still leave one ex-spouse in a much stronger financial position than the other. For example, when one spouse gave up working outside the home in order to care for the children while the other pursued a lucrative career, the career-minded ex-spouse has immediate potential for more income than the one who stayed home.

Courts don't believe it would be fair in this case to leave the home-minded ex-spouse without a source of income, and so they may require alimony. Also known as spousal maintenance or spousal support, alimony is designed to help the disadvantaged ex-spouse live at or near the standard of living he or she had during the marriage. Alimony obligations can be permanent or temporary, until the ex-spouse is in a better financial position. The court can make these decisions about alimony, or the parties can decide upon them when negotiating their divorce settlement.

Alimony can be one of the more contentious issues in a divorce, especially as its obligations can go on long after a couple splits up and begins living otherwise unconnected lives. With that in mind, it's a good idea for Minnesota residents going through a divorce to thoroughly consider their economic needs as they negotiate spousal maintenance.

Source: Huffington Post, "Jane Lynch: Lara Embry Requests Spousal Support In Divorce," Sept. 9, 2013

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