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Should cohabitation be a factor in alimony determinations?

Yes. No. Maybe.

All those responses emerge in a recent Star Tribune article focused upon the above headline query.

Spousal maintenance specifics are front and center these days in the Twin Cities and other parts of the state, with the Tribune noting that Minnesota "is among a handful of states pushing for alimony reform."

And that reform centers heavily on a single word, namely, "cohabitation," with proponents for change arguing that the maintenance award of any recipient receiving permanent alimony who is living with a partner outside marriage should be terminated.

Understandably, that sought for change -- spelled out in a state legislative bill known in shorthand form as HF 1333 -- is controversial.

"We're not advocating putting people out on the street," says its author. She and others who seek change, though (with an organization called Minnesota Alimony Reform being one prominent reform voice) argue that it is simply unfair to a payer to continue writing checks while his or her former spouse is living with another person, safe from an alimony adjustment by the simple strategy of avoiding marriage.

Some commentators who don't disagree wholeheartedly with the would-be law still argue that its blanket application could render unfair results in select cases. Some cohabitating ex-spouses, for example, might still be sorely burdened by a withdrawal of maintenance payments, owing to factors ranging from lack of employable skills to long-term health problems.

The bottom line espoused by some naysayers of HF 1333 is that it is simply too harsh and devoid of any process allowing for individual assessments in given cases.

One critic says that the legislation would be more equitable if it stated that, "if cohabitation is shown to provide an economic benefit, it should be a factor in a case to modify."

We note on our website at the Twin Cities family law firm of Mack & Santana Law Offices, P.C., that alimony or spousal maintenance as it is called in Minnesota can be a bit complicated for an involved party, regardless of whether that individual is being asked to pay spousal maintenance or seeking to defend against such a claim. A number of factors can come into play, which must be comprehensively identified, analyzed and persuasively presented to a court.

As we further note on our site, our attorneys advocate "strategically and passionately" on behalf of clients with alimony-related concerns. We welcome readers' visits to our blog and the opportunity to respond to their questions and concerns.

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