Legal Memorandum: Determination of Income for Spousal Maintenance

Issue: Under Minnesota law, are employment bonuses used to calculate support or spousal maintenance?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Support or spousal maintenance; Earnings of a spouse; Bonuses
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 411 N.W.2d 263; 435 N.W.2d 564; 551 N.W.2d 507
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 6 (1999)
Date: 04/01/2000

           Earnings of a spouse in the form of bonuses are not automatically included in determining the income of that spouse for purposes of child support or maintenance obligations.  Under the statute, income is defined as “any form of periodic payment to an individual including, but not limited to, wages . . . and salaries.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 6 (1999).  In Lynch v. Lynch, 411 N.W.2d 263, (Minn. Ct. App. 1987), pet. for rev. denied (Minn. Oct. 30, 1987)), the court confirmed that dependable bonuses may be a basis for calculating maintenance.  411 N.W.2d at 266.  The key is dependability.    

In Haasken v. Haasken, 396 N.W.2d 253, 261 (Minn. Ct. App. 1986), the trial court refused to include possible future bonuses in determining the income of a child support obligor because “the bonuses were not a guaranteed income source” due to the fact that a bonus was not received every year and the amount of the bonus, if any, varied annually.  A similar result was reached in McCulloch v. McCulloch, 435 N.W.2d 564, 566-67 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989), in which it was held that although the husband had received a bonus in six of the seven years prior to the dissolution, the value of future bonuses would not be included in any maintenance awards due to the fact that there was no guarantee that the bonuses would continue and due, in part, to testimony of a representative of the husband’s employer indicating that […]

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