If you receive spousal maintenance and are considering moving in with a new love interest, there is a new law on the books to consider first.

This new law, signed by Governor Mark Dayton on May 19, 2016 and effective August 1, 2016, amends Minn. Stat. 518.552 to provide that spousal maintenance may be modified on the basis that the party receiving maintenance is cohabitating with another adult.

The reason for this amendment is that previously, Minnesota law provided for spousal maintenance to terminate upon the remarriage of the person receiving maintenance, but not upon cohabitation. Therefore, many people receiving spousal maintenance would avoid remarrying, choosing instead to cohabitate, for the sole purpose of continuing to receive spousal maintenance payments. The party paying spousal maintenance, of course, did not like this arrangement, often feeling as though he (or she) was supporting the other party’s live-in boyfriend or girlfriend.

The new law is also narrow, however, to protect spousal maintenance recipients in situations other than those described above, or in situations where modification of spousal maintenance would not be desirable.

The law provides that a court shall consider the following factors:

(1) whether the obligee would marry the cohabitant but for the maintenance award;

(2) the economic benefit the obligee derives from the cohabitation;

(3) the length of the cohabitation and the likely future duration of the cohabitation; and

(4) the economic impact on the obligee if the modification is modified and the cohabitation ends.

The law excludes, as a basis for modification, cohabitation with a person that the spousal maintenance obligee could not legally marry under Minnesota law. Thus, if a party moves in with a parent, for instance, they are not in danger of losing spousal maintenance. There is some concern that the law could be applied to cohabitation with an unrelated friend, but the law seems aimed at cohabitation of romantic partners.

Additionally, the law provides that a motion to modify spousal maintenance on the basis of cohabitation cannot be brought within one year of the entry of the Judgment and Decree awarding spousal maintenance, unless the parties agree in writing or unless the Court finds that not allowing the motion would create extreme hardship on one of the parties.

If this new law affects you or if you have any questions about establishing or modifying spousal maintenance, contact the attorneys at Arnold, Rodman & Kretchmer PLLC to schedule a consultation.

Written by: Associate Attorney, Micaela Wattenbarger