Important changes are coming to Minnesota’s alimony laws

Minnesota is introducing important changes to its spousal support laws for cohabiting recipients.

Spousal support, also sometimes referred to as spousal maintenance or alimony, tends to be an emotional topic for many people. Recipients often rely on spousal support to help them get back on their feet following a divorce. However, those who pay spousal support sometimes resent doing so and may feel that their payments are unfair. Because spousal support is such an important issue for so many families, it's important to always stay on top of any changes in spousal support laws. Recently, Minnesota lawmakers made some small but significant changes to the state's spousal support requirements.

Spousal support changes

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the change applies to spousal support modifications in the event that the recipient is in a live-in relationship with another person. If the recipient cohabits with a significant other, then adjustments to spousal support payments may be made. Those adjustments would not be automatic. Rather, the person making the payments would request a modification and then a judge would determine what, if any, modifications should be made.

The new measure will go into effect August 1. It is important to note that the modifications cannot be retroactive in nature. Therefore, a person paying spousal support can only ask a change to modify future payments, even if the recipient has already been cohabiting with his or her significant other for a long period of time.

Unintended consequences?

Supporters of the changes say they are necessary because, under previous state law, spousal support usually only terminated when the recipient entered a new marriage. That meant that in many cases recipients were avoiding marriage in order to prolong spousal support payments. The changes, therefore, are expected to mainly benefit those who pay spousal support.

As MinnPost points out, however, there are concerns that the bill may lead to some unintended consequences. For example, in determining if payments should be modified, judges must determine whether the recipient would likely marry the person he or she is with if it were not for the spousal support payments. While such a requirement may be well-meaning, it does raise the uncomfortable prospect that the court may start delving into the recipient's personal life, including love letters and emails, to determine the seriousness of his or her relationship with the person they are living with.

Family law

The above changes are certainly significant for many people who either pay or receive spousal support. Furthermore, these changes are a reminder of just how quickly family law can change and how profound those changes can be for some people. As a result, anybody who has concerns about a family law issue should seek out the advice of a qualified family law attorney. An experienced attorney can help guide clients through some of the challenges presented by a divorce and how best to deal with them.