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Spousal maintenance: focus on Minnesota's cohabitation law

Here was the rub for many Minnesota advocates seeking change to state law addressing post-divorce spousal maintenance payments: their belief that their ex-spouses receiving alimony while cohabiting with financially contributing new partners would not remarry to avoid the risk that incoming payments would be legally cut off by virtue of that event.

Unsurprisingly, and as noted by a commentator in a media piece focused upon a recently enacted Minnesota law addressing cohabitation and support payments from a former spouse, the impetus for legal change "came from divorced individuals, primarily but not exclusively men, their current spouses, and their advocates."

The stated goal of that unified coalition steadily leading up to a statutory provision that was enacted in May of this year was a modification of existing law that would bar former spouses from opting out of new marriages in order to keep alimony payments coming.

That refraining worked an inequity in instances where ex-spouses were in new relationships with partners making money and contributing to expenses, argued proponents for legal change. In their view, it amounted to a form of double dipping.

As noted above, the reformers got what they were pushing for, with the recently enacted cohabitation law taking effect from August 1. The gist of the legislation is its provision enabling a payer to request court adjustment of a spousal maintenance order based upon a recipient's ongoing relationship with another party outside of marriage.

Notably, a decision is discretionary with a judge, who might leave an order in place or, alternatively, reduce, suspend or terminate it.

The law could yield "unintended consequences," says the aforementioned commentator, who adds that it "is likely to produce more problems than it solves."

We will take a closer look at why that might be the case in our next blog post, but this new statute gives hope to many and has generated strong interest. While no doubt many divorced alimony obligors wonder if this law can help them, experienced family law practitioners such as those at Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C., can assist a client with this analysis and with testing the bounds of this interesting new law.

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