Spousal maintenance, without an agreement otherwise, ends in Minnesota when the spouse receiving the maintenance remarries. The reasoning has been that once an ex-spouse remarried, there was a new spouse in the household helping to pay monthly living expenses and the ex-spouse no longer had a need to be supported by their former spouse.
So in many cases ex-spouses will cohabitate with another person and continue to receive their spousal maintenance payments, even though they may no longer have a need for that money because of the additional income in their household. This has created a potentially unfair situation for the paying ex-spouse and a financial windfall for the other ex-spouse.
The Minnesota legislature passed a new law that went into effect on August 1, 2016. Minnesota Statute §518.552, subdivision 6, is titled “Cohabitation” and provides an opportunity for a spouse who is paying spousal maintenance to potentially stop, suspend or reduce the spousal maintenance they’re paying if their ex-spouse begins to reside with another adult after the divorce. That adult needs to be someone that could legally marry the ex-spouse (not a parent, sibling, first cousin or other close relative).
In order to receive a modification, the Judge will need to look at five (5) factors: Whether the ex-spouse would marry the live-in adult if they weren’t receiving spousal maintenance; The economic benefit they have from living with someone; How long the live-in relationship has been going on and how likely it will continue; Whether there would be an economic impact on the ex-spouse if there was no longer a spousal maintenance order and they stopped living with the cohabitant; AND whether the spousal maintenance order was based on a binding agreement between the parties (and what were the terms of that agreement).
The parties will obviously need to mediate the issue first before bringing a motion to Court. And prior to or during that mediation process, as well as prior to the Motion hearing, it will be important for the paying spouse to ask for informal or formal discovery from the ex-spouse to gather the financial information and other facts necessary to assess the strength of the case, to be able to have a productive mediation, and to provide the Court with the evidence it needs to apply the five factors and make a decision on the motion.
It is currently unknown what strength of proof that the Court will require to make a ruling in favor of the maintenance-paying spouse. The burden of providing the proof to meet the factors is certainly going to be on the spouse that is asking for the modification. However, I would not be surprised if most parties actually work through any modification in mediation and avoid the uncertainty of the Court.
For further information or an assessment of your situation, feel free to contact Gloria E. Bogen at 651-291-1717. Dudley and Smith, P.A. is a full service law firm with offices in St. Paul, Bloomington, Burnsville, Chanhassen, White Bear Lake, and Woodbury.
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