Alimony: Changes in Spousal Maintenance: Cohabitation or Remarriage
Changes in Minnesota's Spousal Maintenance law may affect those who cohabitant.
Alimony or Spousal MaintenanceIn Minnesota, "Alimony" is called spousal maintenance. The language was changes decades ago in an attempt to create a kinder, gentler sounding term when one party in a divorce is required to provide financial support to another. To the payer, it is rarely a kinder or gentler effect.
Termination of Spousal SupportIn most instances, under Minnesota's spousal maintenance law, financial support would terminate upon remarriage or death of the spousal support recipient. Of course, limitations of the language lead to occasions of abuse where a recipient spouse would cohabitate with another person, but not remarry, seeking to avoid a termination of spousal support. After all, three incomes are better than two. It was always possible to make arguments that cohabitation reduced expenses for the payee warranting a reduction is spousal support but presenting compelling arguments in court was often difficult where the new Paramore was beyond the court's grasp. In other words, the new significant other is not a party to the legal proceedings and cannot be compelled to produce their personal financial information or financial contribution.
Changes in Spousal Maintenance & CohabitationCommencing August 1, 2016, Minnesota's family laws regarding alimony (spousal maintenance) were revised to, in some ways, facilitate modifications where cohabitation occurs. Effective August 1, 2016, the spousal maintenance statute includes a provision which allows modification of a spousal maintenance award based on cohabitation of the payee with another adult.
The Law & LimitationsIt is important to note that the law has limitations. It does not provide an automatic end to spousal maintenance, but, instead, provides a viable legal basis for a motion to modify. In order to modify a spousal maintenance award based on cohabitation, the Court will be required to consider specific factors which include:
1) Whether the person receiving the maintenance would marry the cohabitant but for the maintenance award;
2) What economic benefit the person receiving maintenance derives from the cohabitation;
3) The length of the cohabitation and the likely future duration of the cohabitation; and
4) The economic impact on the person receiving maintenance if maintenance is modified and the cohabitation ends.
How a Court May Modify Spousal SupportIf the factors above are compelling, a Court can then reduce, suspend, reserve or terminate maintenance. It is important to know the law excepts "co-habitation" with related-adults. In other words, if the adults could not be married, there would be no basis for modification. Much like child support obligations, spousal maintenance may only be modified retroactively to the date that a Motion is served.
Future Litigation May Define the Law FurtherAs with any new laws, it is unclear yet how the court will apply the above factors. You can anticipate that his issue will be litigated in the courts of appeal soon which may more carefully define what constitutes a change worthy of spousal maintenance modification. Therefore, it is important to speak with an experienced family law professional regarding your situation.