Divorce can be one of the most financially stressful events in a person’s life. After sometimes years of living and joining financial resources with another person, divorce means having to live on your own and find your own way to meet your expenses. For a spouse that has been a stay-at-home parent or has foregone career opportunities to help the other spouse, this can be especially difficult, as his or her earning capacity may be much lower than the other spouse. Spousal maintenance is designed to help balance the scales in these and other types of situations where one spouse is financially disadvantaged. A divorce judge will weigh the factors set out in Minnesota law when deciding whether to award spousal maintenance and how long the award should last. Following the divorce, it is not unusual for the spouse receiving spousal maintenance to move on and remarry. When this happens, it may seem especially unfair for the receiving spouse to continue to receive spousal maintenance.
In recognition of this, Minnesota law provides that when the receiving spouse remarries, the paying spouse’s maintenance obligation will automatically end under statute 518A. As with most other laws, there can be an exception. If the parties specifically agree in writing that the spousal maintenance obligation will continue regardless of whether the receiving party remarries, then the maintenance obligation will not terminate due to the remarriage.
This automatic termination of spousal maintenance led to a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “seven-year engagement.” This mean that the receiving spouse may get engaged and reside with a new partner but refuse to get married until after the paying spouse’s maintenance obligation was over. In recognition of this practice, the Minnesota legislature took action in 2016. The legislature passed a new statute providing that upon providing evidence that a receiving spouse is cohabitating, the spousal maintenance obligation shall end. Evidence of cohabitation includes things such as shared bank accounts, the duration of the relationship, sharing household bills and chores, and how the couple defines their relationship to family and friends. Although before this law a paying spouse could petition the court to modify spousal maintenance based on the changed circumstance of cohabitation, this law makes it clear that cohabitation should automatically terminate a support obligation.
Questions about spousal maintenance do not end when the divorce is over. You need to talk to an experienced attorney about your spousal maintenance order to make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Call us today at (320) 299-4249 to talk about your future and your spousal maintenance.