February 3, 2018

Should Your Spousal Support Increase with the Cost of Living?

questions answers signSpousal support that lasts more than a couple years may be subject to cost of living adjustments (COLAs).  This is negotiated as part of your divorce settlement. As the cost of living goes up, spousal support can increase as well, to meet its intent of maintaining the ex-spouse’s standard of living.

Fortunately, the State of Minnesota’s Office on the Economic Status of Women (OESW) provides a booklet that contains a worksheet and instructions for calculating the cost of living increase for spousal support, as well as child support.  The OESW’s A Guide to Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments also has template forms for notifying the paying ex-spouse of the increase and an Affidavit of Service by Mail form. Why an Affidavit of Service by Mail form?  Because if the paying ex-spouse does not increase the support as requested, the affidavit is proof that they had been notified.

All these forms and worksheets should also be filed with the court administrator where the decree was filed.  This is a lot of paperwork, but OESW’s guide also has a checklist to make sure all of the involved parties get the correct documents.

One additional piece of information needed to complete the COLA calculations is the Consumer Price Index Table.  This table is also maintained and available for download at the OESW website.  The index numbers on this table are used to show the increase in the cost of goods and services over time. These index numbers are used in the calculations to determine how much spousal support (and child support) should increase to keep up.  The table shows over 20 years of data but, if one is being diligent about requesting increases, only the index numbers from the past couple of years should be needed.

The Consumer Price Index Table contains sets of price index numbers: the CPI-U shows how much prices have increased on average for the entire United States; the CPI-U MSP shows how much prices have increased in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area.  Your divorce decree will likely indicate which set of index numbers you should use.  Note that while using the CPI-U MSP can most accurately reflect the increase in prices in Minnesota, this set is updated twice a year, in January and July, and it takes an additional month for the updated figure to be published.

OESW’s A Guide to Child Support & Spousal Maintenance Cost-of-Living Adjustments is easy to follow and doesn’t require too many calculations.  If you are not good at math or filling out forms, it is a good idea to get help from a financial professional or your family law attorney.

Link to the Guide

Link to the Consumer Price Index Table

Amy WolffABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Wolff
AJW Financial, Inc.

Amy Wolff’s clients describe her as a financial educator and coach. She listens to their diverse concerns and guides them through life’s most stressful transitions toward confident financial literacy and independence. By remaining accessible and open to any question, Amy helps clients avoid pitfalls and make decisions today that align well with their plans long-term. Her approach to personalized financial guidance has given countless clients a non-judgmental place to make well-reasoned financial decisions for their futures and their loved ones.

Amy is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP®) and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ (CDFA®). Feel free to learn more at www.ajwfinancial.com

Amy Jensen Wolff, CFP®, CDFA®
3300 Edinborough Way, Suite 550
Edina, MN 55435
Phone: 952-405-2000
www.ajwfinancial.com

Registered Representative offering securities and advisory services through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services also offered through AdvisorNet Wealth Management. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.

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