Any client who deals with spousal maintenance will probably hear a description from their attorney of a Karon Waiver. A Karon Waiver is an agreement made by the parties to either waive maintenance, or set a specific amount or duration of maintenance. The key feature of a Karon Waiver is that it completely divests the Court of jurisdiction to consider either a modification or an establishment of maintenance in the future. Although it is standard practice to discuss the impact of a Karon Waiver with clients, many attorneys place less emphasis on informing clients that a similar divesture of jurisdiction can arise if a Judgment and Decree is entered without the court either awarding maintenance or reserving maintenance. If a Judgment and Decree does not contain a provision for maintenance, or denies maintenance to both parties, and does not specifically reserve that issue, the Court forever loses jurisdiction to establish maintenance in the future, exactly as if there were a Karon Waiver in place. This rule applies whether the Judgement and Decree results from a stipulation of the parties or from a Court’s decision after Trial.
The Minnesota Supreme Court addressed this issue in the case of Eckert v Eckert, 216 N.W.2d 837 (Minn. 1974). In that case, the Minnesota Supreme Court, quoting a previous case, and using the older term “alimony” instead of “spousal maintenance,” stated:
“We hold that where the decree of divorce is silent as to alimony or fails properly to designate alimony as required by statute, the trial court cannot thereafter modify the decree to award alimony since to allow such a practice would be to allow modification of something that never existed. Further, where the decree does not specifically reserve jurisdiction of the issue of alimony for determination at a later date, no such jurisdiction can later be claimed.”
Thus, if no maintenance is awarded, the Court loses all jurisdiction over future maintenance, unless the Court specifically reserved that jurisdiction. This is why it can be critically important to fight for a reservation of maintenance, especially if the need for maintenance may arise in the future.
If you have any questions about the effect of a Court’s Order regarding spousal maintenance, please call me today at 651-647-0087 or reach out via our online contact form to set up your free consultation.