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Minnesota lawmakers consider changes to alimony laws

Alimony, also known as spousal maintenance, is oftentimes an emotional issue for divorcing spouses. It can be the subject of contentious differences and lead to acrimony between the paying spouse and the recipient spouse. Minnesota lawmakers are now looking at the issue of alimony and discussing possible reforms. The alimony system is viewed as antiquated by some and the possibility of permanent alimony unfair.

One dentist in Minnesota highlighted some of the challenges associated with alimony after divorcing following 20 years of marriage and being required to pay permanent alimony. His concern is that it is guaranteed income for one party and a guaranteed payment by the other party for life. Although he agreed to permanent spousal maintenance, he notes that he believed at the time of the divorce that it could be changed based on a change in circumstances.

Although he learned his ex-wife had sold the marital home and was living in a condo in Florida with her fiancé, a judge would not reduce his $5,200 monthly alimony payment to his ex-wife. He lost his appeal, but the judge found his case troubling. Lawmakers are concerned about fairness and the abuse of the alimony system. Alimony recipients may be able to cohabitate with another party and refrain from getting married in order to continue receiving benefits that would otherwise end if they remarried. Currently, receipt of alimony continues as long as the recipient spouse remains unmarried.

Others argue the subject of spousal maintenance may be more complex, as one of its purposes is to compensate a spouse for years they may have spent contributing to the career and earning capacity of the paying spouse, which should not necessarily end because the recipient spouse remarries. Many seem to agree, however, that the alimony process may be outdated and may not be accurately reflecting families today. Lawmakers are working with the Minnesota Bar Association to re-define cohabitation related to alimony laws.

Source: CBS Minnesota, "Minnesota Lawmaker Pushes For Alimony Reform," Jennifer Mayerle, March 7, 2016

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