Legal Memorandum: Extra-judicial Agreement in MN

Issue: Whether an ‘extra-judicial agreement’ regarding spousal maintenance is enforceable in Family Court in Minnesota?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Extra-judicial agreement; Spousal maintenance; Oral contract
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 424 N.W.2d 580; 703 N.W.2d 529; 435 N.W.2d 501; 674 N.W.2d 770
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2011

Precedent for enforceability:

[W]hen a party asserts that there has been an enforceable oral modification of the terms of a written contract, that party “has the burden of proving the modification [of the written contract] by clear and convincing evidence.  The burden is not met by a mere preponderance of the evidence.”

This court respects written contracts and subjects allegations of an inconsistent oral contract to a rigorous examination.  “[T]o be justified in setting aside a written contract and holding it as abandoned or substituted by a subsequent parol contract at variance with its written terms the evidence must be clear and convincing.”

Bolander v. Bolander, 703 N.W.2d 529, 541-42 (Minn. App. 2005) (citations omitted).

An extrajudicial modification of a spousal maintenance contract is enforceable only if the court finds that it is “both contractually sound and otherwise fair and reasonable.”  Kielley v. Kielley, 674 N.W.2d 770, 777 (Minn. App. 2004).  “When evaluating whether an extrajudicial modification of maintenance is fair and reasonable, the district court should consider and make findings addressing all relevant factors.”  Id. at 778 (citing Karon v. Karon, 435 N.W.2d 501, 503 (Minn. 1989)).  These factors are whether the stipulated obligation is unfair and unreasonable (1) to children; (2) to one of the parties due to overreaching or for some other reason; (3) to the State, because the amount of the obligation would unnecessarily require one or […]