Adultery in Minnesota - Does Cheating Affect Alimony?

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Alimony is a type of court-enforced financial support that can be awarded by the court during the divorce process. In the typical alimony process, one spouse pays the other spouse an amount of money pre-determined by the court. In some states, marital misconduct such as adultery can increase an award of alimony, but this is not true in every state.

As many spouses know, cheating often has consequences. Aside from the effect of cheating on the marriage itself, cheating may affect the divorce process and any alimony awards received by the spouses. Each state varies on how exactly adultery will affect an alimony award, and so this article is intended to clarify that issue for the state of Minnesota.

The Nature of Divorce in Minnesota

Before discussing whether adultery or cheating would affect an award of alimony or spousal support, the nature of divorce in Minnesota must be examined. Like many other states, Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state.1 As a result, fault and marital misconduct such as adultery are irrelevant in the divorce process.

About Minnesota Alimony Rules

Alimony in Minnesota is known as spousal maintenance. Before a Minnesota divorce court makes an award of spousal maintenance, the court must first determine whether either spouse is eligible for a spousal maintenance award. Spousal maintenance is only appropriate where a dependent spouse either lacks sufficient property to meet his or her reasonable needs or is unable to earn enough income to be self-sustaining.

If the divorce judge determines that a spouse is eligible for spousal maintenance, the court will then use a list of eight statutory factors in setting the amount and duration of the maintenance award. Those factors include:

  1. The financial resources of the eligible spouse;
  2. Whether the eligible spouse can acquire additional education or skills to increase his or her earning capacity;
  3. The standard of living established during the marriage;
  4. The duration of the marriage;
  5. Whether the eligible spouse has foregone any employment opportunities;
  6. The age and physical health of the spouses;
  7. The ability of the payor spouse to afford spousal maintenance payments; and
  8. Any financial or non-financial contributions made by either spouse during the marriage that increased the value of marital property or a homemaker’s contribution.2

The Effect of Adultery and Other For-Cause Grounds for Divorce on Alimony

Because Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, fault and marital misconduct such as adultery are not relevant to the decision to award spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is determined on a purely financial basis without regard to either spouses’ wrongdoing.3 That said, if a spouse’s misconduct has financial consequences, that may be considered in an award of spousal maintenance.4 In the case of adultery, an expensive affair involving lavish gifts, vacations, or hotel stays could affect spousal support payments where the non-adulterous spouse was essentially subsidizing the affair to the detriment of family finances.

The Verdict:

Minnesota law bars the consideration of adultery and other instances of marital misconduct in awarding spousal maintenance. Because Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, spousal maintenance awards are meant to be purely financial in nature.

If your spouse has been cheating on you and you plan to sue for divorce, you should consider contacting a local divorce attorney for assistance. Divorces involving adultery claims tend to be very messy lawsuits and will be very difficult to litigate on your own. Your rights can be best protected by proactively protecting your ability to succeed in your divorce litigation.

Note: This article is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for your specific situation.

Resources:

  1. Minn. Stat. § 518.06.
  2. Minn. Stat. § 518.552.
  3. Robert v. Zygmunt, 652 N.W.2d 537 (Minn. Ct. App. 2002).
  4. Burt v. Burt, 386 N.W.2d 797 (Minn. Ct. App. 1986) (prohibition against considering misconduct did not prevent consideration of financial needs of wife caused by bad back that was result of husband’s physical abuse during marriage).