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Minnesota law currently considers many factors when determining the duration of spousal maintenance (also known as alimony or spousal support), if any, after divorce. As a general rule, these help ensure that spouses of limited means can continue to afford living in a reasonable manner after divorce. However, even so-called permanent support ends when either party dies or when the recipient re-marries.

When the Governor signed HF 1333 into law in May, he formalized provisions that significantly broaden the factors that can end permanent maintenance payments sooner than expected.

The Courts Now Consider the Financial Benefits of Cohabitation

To protect the right to spousal maintenance, recipients commonly avoid re-marrying after divorce, in favor of moving in with another individual outside of the bonds of marriage. Under the new law, however, the courts are now expected to consider all of the following factors as possible grounds for reducing or terminating maintenance:

  • If alimony recipients would marry their cohabitants if the maintenance award was not at issue
  • If cohabitation provides economic benefits to alimony recipients
  • The length of the cohabitation combined with the likely future duration
  • The economic impact that modifying alimony might have if cohabitation ends

The new law essentially allows the courts to consider certain financial factors that previously posed no concern. Judges can now potentially reduce or terminate formerly-permanent alimony when they determine that the recipient’s cohabitation arrangements place them in equal or better financial circumstances than they were when the marriage was dissolved.

Cohabitation Arrangements Can Be Subject to Closer Scrutiny

It is important to note that the term cohabitation clearly applies to a relationship between adults, but since it is also based on the cohabitants’ likelihood to marry, a romantic relationship must exist. Earlier versions of the bill did not make this distinction, so the provisions might have included any roommate situation or even certain financial relationships between parties who do not even live together.

Still when couples live together for romantic reasons, how do the courts accurately determine the potential duration of these relationships? Additionally, even if the relationship is romantic, the partners might equally share expenses, making life more affordable than either person could accomplish outside of the cohabitation relationship.

Without the commitment of marriage, judges must consider every possible factor to determine whether an alimony recipient is obtaining financial benefits from a cohabitation relationship. The courts cannot base all determinations based on truly objective grounds.

Out experienced Minnesota divorce lawyers understand the circumstances that can justify the continuation of spousal maintenance and warrant the reduction or termination of maintenance awards. When these concerns become an issue after divorce, call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form.