Minnesota Supreme Court Weighs in on Spousal Maintenance Modifications

June 2, 2021

On May 26, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court filed its decision in Honke v. Honke. In that case, ex-wife received post-divorce cash gifts from her parents of $500,000.00 during the time she was also receiving spousal maintenance from her ex-husband.

Ex-husband asked the trial court to reduce or terminate his spousal maintenance based on the gifts, requesting that the gift money be deemed available for ex-wife’s support. The issue went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court who decided that trial courts are required to consider whether the principal of post-divorce cash gifts is a source of income available for a maintenance recipient’s self-support but are not required to invade the principal of a post-divorce gift. The directions given to trial courts by the Minnesota Supreme Court as to post-divorce financial resources, such as cash gifts, differ from the directions and guidance given in the past as to pre-divorce financial resources-including cash gifts that constitute nonmarital property.

In arriving at their decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court addressed just how complicated divorces involving spousal maintenance can be, and noted that our legal system gives broad discretion to trial judges in scrutinizing the information presented to them and making a proper decision based on all of the facts and circumstances.

In the end, this case highlights the importance of presenting a spousal maintenance case in a persuasive and straight-forward manner so as to persuade the trial court to make a well-reasoned and supported decision.

Andrew M. Tatge is a partner and chair of the Family Law and Divorce Practice Group at Gislason & Hunter LLP (www.gislason.com). He regularly represents farmers, business owners, professionals, and other high income and high net worth individuals (or their spouses) in divorce and related actions. He also writes and speaks regularly on divorce issues related to business owners and family farms. Andrew can be reached at atatge@gislason.com or 507- 387-1115. This information is general in nature and should not be construed for tax or legal advice.


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