(Early) retirement can reduce (but probably not end) spousal maintenance

6 Apr

In Wisness v. Wisness, Sidney Wisness and Patricia Wisness had a 30-year marriage terminated by the district court.  Spousal maintenance from soon-to-be ex-husband to soon-to-be ex-wife was ordered, but more than a decade after the original maintenance Order the husband took early retirement from his job, and he sought to terminate his maintenance obligations based upon his reduced income.  The wife argued that the husband could not voluntarily reduce his income in order to avoid maintenance.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held that the district court’s order reducing maintenance by 50%, rather than eliminating it altogether, was appropriate given that the parties could maintain a similar standard of living on the reduced amount.  Also, both parties could curtail expenses or use retirement savings to make up the shortfall.  Minnesota Statute 518.552, https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/statutes/?id=518.552, provides a guidepost to assist courts in the determination of maintenance.

The lesson here is that maintenance may never end completely.  For planning purposes from the husband’s persective, an agreement between the parties as to a termination date for maintenance could have been agreed upon.


Entry by Ryan Wood. Ryan is an associate in the litigation section at Thomsen & Nybeck and practices in the areas of criminal law and general civil litigation.  Ryan has a wealth of varying experience in the field of criminal law as a prosecutor in multiple jurisdictions, and as a defense attorney handling adult, felony, white collar and juvenile matters.  He also has experience in complex civil litigation.  Ryan has directed cases through mediations, arbitrations, jury trials and the state and federal appellate courts, including oral argument, and has handled literally hundreds of court trials.  Ryan’s public service experience includes authoring materials for and lecturing at Continuing Legal Education and training seminars, serving as a law clerk to a Minnesota District Court judge and also serving as a staffer in the United States Senate.


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