On August 1, 2016, the Minnesota Cohabitation Alimony Reform Bill will take effect throughout the state. What is it, and what does it mean to you if you are paying—or receiving—spousal maintenance?
The bill was signed into law on May 19, 2016 by Governor Dayton, and it allows those paying spousal maintenance to request a modification or termination of spousal maintenance payments if the recipient of maintenance, is cohabitating with another adult.
Does this mean that if you're receiving spousal maintenance, and you move back home with your parents, or get a roommate to save money, that you'll lose your alimony? No. The law isn't intended to punish you for living frugally. It is aimed at obligees who live with a romantic partner, but put off marriage in the interest of continuing to receive the monthly payment.
As the old saying goes, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck." Similarly, Minnesota courts will take a common-sense approach to determining whether cohabitation is taking place, examining the facts and circumstances of each particular case. In deciding whether to modify a spousal maintenance award, courts will consider:
Courts may consider evidence about the obligee's relationship, including whether the obligee and partner hold themselves out to family and friends as a couple. Interestingly, the fact that an obligee and his or her partner maintain separate residences is not sufficient to compel a conclusion that they are not cohabitating, if the weight of the evidence suggests that they are.
It is worth taking a moment to define the word "modify" for purposes of the amended law, too. Modify may mean to reduce the amount of maintenance, but it can also mean terminating it altogether, suspending it, or reserving it.
If you're an obligor, the amended law gives you some recourse if you suspect your ex is receiving support he or she doesn't really need because your ex is cohabitating with a romantic partner. There is a one-year waiting period from the date of the order granting spousal maintenance to file a motion to modify. However, this waiting period can be waived by mutual agreement. So, if you suspect while negotiating a divorce settlement that your ex may move in with a partner, you might ask for a waiver of the waiting period as one of the terms of your settlement.
If you're an obligee, and you want to continue receiving money from your ex, you may need to consider postponing your plans to share your home with a new partner. If you want the freedom to live your life as you see fit, including cohabitation, you need to understand the implications which may be having to sacrifice your spousal maintenance.
If you'd like to learn how MInnesota's amended law on spousal maintenance applies to the facts of your case, we invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse, P.A. at (952) 224-9977 to schedule a free initial consultation. Whether you are an obligor or obligee, we can advise you and help you to best protect your financial interests.