Legal Memorandum: Modification of a Maintenance Award in MN

Issue: What is the current state of Minnesota law regarding a downward modification of a maintenance award based on the obligee spouse’s (ex-wife’s) cohabitation with her fianc?

Area of Law: Family Law
Keywords: Modification of maintenance; Cohabitation
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 285 N.W.2d 490; 566 N.W.2d 723; 291 Minn. 348; 282 N.W.2d 561; 258 N.W.2d 754
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(a)(2012); Minn. Stat. § 518.552; Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(d); Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(a); § 518A.39, subd. 2(e)
Date: 02/01/2013

The terms of an order respecting maintenance may be modified upon a showing of (among other possible changes) the substantially decreased need of the obligee spouse, which makes the terms of the maintenance order currently in effect unreasonable and unfair.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(a) (2012).  In other words, a movant for maintenance modification must demonstrate not only the existence of a substantial change in circumstances based on the obligee’s decreased need, but also that the change has the effect of rendering the original maintenance award both unreasonable and unfair.  Beck v. Kaplan, 566 N.W.2d 723, 726 (Minn. 1997). 

On a motion for modification of maintenance, the court must apply, in addition to all other relevant factors, the factors relevant to an original award of maintenance under Minn. Stat. § 518.552.  Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(d).  These factors include, among others, the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance.  Id. § 518.552, subd. 2(a). 

A modification may be made retroactive with respect to any time period during which the petitioning party has pending a motion for modification, but only from the date of service of the motion on the responding party.  Id. § 518A.39, subd. 2(e).  The court need not hold an evidentiary hearing on a motion for modification of maintenance.  Id. at subd. 2(f).      

The decisional law applying these statutory standards has not changed much in recent years.  The principles espoused in two seminal cases continue to be applied by […]

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