In these times of uncertainty with COVID-19 impacting our families, communities, and economy, you may feel alone and stressed about your job, loved ones, and family. It is important to remember to take care of yourself both mentally and emotionally during these next few weeks and even months. One of the stresses for many Minnesotans with the Governor’s stay at home order is reduced income or loss of income: not only do you worry about how to meet your own expenses, but some of you may have spousal maintenance obligations to pay to an ex. Consider reducing some of your stress by having your spousal maintenance obligation temporarily or permanently modified.
First, Try Reaching an Agreement with Your Ex
If you are unable to meet your spousal maintenance obligation, you should seek to modify it to avoid legal repercussions. The most effective way to resolve the issue would be to reach out to your ex-spouse and discuss the matter with her/him. If you can reach an agreement, you will need to memorialize it into a Stipulation and Order to modify your obligation, which will need to be executed by the Court in order for it to be enforceable. I caution clients from reaching an agreement with just a handshake because it is unenforceable in the event your spouse changes his or her mind. The Court can only enforce the last existing Order. The consequence of making an informal arrangement with your spouse would be you still owing the unpaid amount even though you believed you had a “gentlemen’s agreement.”
In the event you and your ex-spouse are able to reach an agreement on your own, I can assist in drafting the Stipulation and Order to modify the child support and/or spousal maintenance obligation to submit to the Court for its signature. I encourage parties to try to reach an agreement without the Court’s involvement because it is less costly, and you can be more creative with solutions to resolve the matter. For example, you could temporarily decrease the obligation for a period of time and include a provision that after a certain event occurs, the spousal maintenance will return to the prior amount ordered. Not only would this provision provide temporary relief for the party with the spousal maintenance obligation, but it would also provide security to the party receiving the payment that the decrease is only temporary. It also avoids having to return to court to have the obligation increased again, which means less legal fees.
Pursuing A Spousal Maintenance Modification Through the Courts
If you are unable to reach an agreement directly with your ex-spouse, you will need to file a motion with Court requesting a modification of your spousal maintenance obligation. You should gather the following documents:
- The last spousal maintenance order;
- A current paystub or unemployment benefits statement;
- A current monthly budget;
- Your ex-spouse’s current income, if known; and
- Your ex-spouse’s current monthly budget.
If you do not know your ex-spouse’s information, you can still proceed with your motion to modify spousal maintenance obligations. As a part of the proceeding, you will obtain the information from your ex-spouse.
In order to modify a spousal maintenance obligation, the new obligation must meet two statutory criteria: there must be a 20% decrease/increase; and amount must be at least a $75.00 difference. If these two criteria are not met, spousal maintenance cannot be modified.
Need Some Help with Your Spousal Maintenance Modification? Contact Beth Barbosa
As you can see, there are creative solutions to explore when seeking a modification of your spousal maintenance obligation. Whether you reach an agreement with your ex-spouse or need to file a formal motion to modify your child support and/or spousal maintenance obligation, I am available to assist and advise even during these times of uncertainty with COVID-19. I can connect through email, phone or videoconferencing; you can learn more about these contact methods on my website. Together, we will reduce some of your stress during this difficult time.