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Post-Divorce Gifts

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2022 | Firm News

On Wednesday May 26, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court weighed in on a novel family law issue: whether post-divorce cash gifts can affect a spousal maintenance award.

Minnesota Statute 518.552 subd. 2(a) requires the Court to consider a party’s “financial resources” available for self-support when determining a spousal maintenance award.  The parties in Honke v. Honke divorced in 2016 and Wife was awarded permanent spousal maintenance. During the marriage, Wife’s parents gave Wife annual cash gifts that the Court declined to consider as a financial resource for the purposes of calculating spousal maintenance due to their unreliability.

After divorce, however, Wife’s parents continued to provide her with annual cash gifts in addition to two large “legacy” gifts totaling $500,000. Wife’s parents stated the “legacy” gifts were part of Wife’s inheritance. Husband moved the District Court to modify the spousal maintenance award; Husband argued that the legacy gifts are a financial resource available to Wife for self-support and, therefore, that the spousal maintenance award is now unreasonable and unfair. The district court determined, as a matter of law, that they could not require Wife to invade the principal amount of the legacy gifts. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed. Finding that the term “financial resources” is not defined in the statute, the Minnesota Supreme Court looked to the plain language definition of the words. Concluding that “financial resources” means ‘a supply of money’, the Court found that lower courts are required to consider post-divorce cash gifts when determining spousal maintenance awards.  The case was remanded for further litigation in the District Court.

What Does This Mean For Me?

It is important to know that actions taken post-divorce can affect your rights under a divorce decree. Everything from an award of spousal maintenance down to child support and parenting time. Contact Messick Law PLLC today with your questions about post-divorce life.