Spousal Maintenance Termination Upon Retirment - Alto v. Alto

The Minnesota Court of Appeals issued its ruling in Alto v. Alto on September 22, 2014. There are several important conclusions that we can take from this unpublished decision.

The parties were divorced in 1999 after a long marriage and the husband was ordered to pay his ex-wife $200 per month in permanent spousal maintenance. When husband retired at the end of May 2010, he stopped paying maintenance, without obtaining court permission.

The Saint Louis County district court, in an order filed on April 17, 2012, held husband in constructive contempt of court, having found that husband had not paid a total of $4,704 in maintenance between September 8, 2010 and April 17, 2012; the court directed him to pay maintenance as ordered.

Husband, in June 2012, moved to terminate his maintenance obligation retroactively to May 2010, and for attorney fees. By an order filed on October 10, 2012, the district court concluded that husband failed to show that substantially changed circumstances rendered his existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair, and denied relief.

In denying relief, the October 10, 2012 order found, after recognizing that husband's 50% share of the marital portion of his pension ($547.00) was property and not income, that husband's gross monthly income was $2,753, while wife had a gross monthly income of $1,432. The district court further found that husband's reasonable monthly expenses were $2,100 while wife had reasonable monthly expenses of $2,110.

The matter was reversed and remanded by the Court of Appeals due to the fact that the district court failed to make appropriate findings as to Husband's net income, etc. All court orders have to be supported with judicially-recognized findings of fact; when they aren’t that is grounds for the court of appeals to direct the district court to fix it.

Another aspect seen here is the analysis of the district court in examining the propriety of the current maintenance award relative to the purported change in circumstances. Lastly this is an important to read regarding the discussion of pension payments and 401(k) payments that have martial and post-marital components.