Minnesota law allows a spousal maintenance award (a.k.a. alimony) to be reduced, suspended, reserved, or even terminated if the party receiving alimony (the obligee) moves in with a significant other after the divorce. Spousal maintenance used to terminate upon the remarriage or death of the receiving party (unless otherwise agreed to). This arguably prevented some obligees from getting remarried and instead merely moving in with their significant other without getting married.
However, the law currently allows for a modification of spousal maintenance based on cohabitation. In making such a determination, the Court must consider the following:
- Whether the obligee would marry the cohabitant but for the maintenance award;
- The economic benefit the obligee derives from the cohabitation;
- The length of the cohabitation and the likely future duration of the cohabitation; and
- The economic impact on the obligee if maintenance is modified and the cohabitation ends.
The person paying the spousal maintenance (the obligor) must also show that based on the cohabitation the terms of the spousal maintenance award are unreasonable and unfair.
One potential snag in such a modification requires looking at the parties’ divorce decree. If the parties opted to stipulate to particular terms, it may be important to know whether the terms of the decree would preclude an obligor from moving the court for such a modification. The law specifically states that such a modification must preclude or be limited to the extent that the parties agreed. In other words, an agreement at the time of the divorce or after the divorce may prevent any modification from occurring.
Lastly, a modification of spousal maintenance based on a claim of cohabitation cannot be heard within one year of the entry of the divorce decree. The only exceptions to this rule are whether the parties agreed otherwise or the moving party can show the court that extreme hardship will result if the court does not hear his/her motion.
It is extremely important to know and understand the terms of your divorce decree. It is equally important to know and understand the terms of any agreement you make regarding spousal maintenance. The terms could affect your rights well after the divorce.