Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby DivorcedDadInVa » Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:25 pm

Something similar-ish happened to a friend of mine ... she petitioned to have < parenting time > changed because their son was 17, had a job, etc. and Dad was 1500 miles away. The original terms dictated that pretty much every holiday had to be spent with Dad, which meant the kid could not hold down a job reliably, and Dad was unwilling to work with her and frankly, the boy didn't want to do anyway.

So, they had an initial hearing and all of sudden it spiraled into all sorts of other things ... including GAL's being appointed, therapy ordered, and multiple hearings. All to make some changes to < parenting time > with a kid who is nearly of mage of maturity, anyway. Horrible waste of resources, made the kid feel even worse about his Dad, stressed the Mom, and proved again that every time you set foot in the court room, apparently everything is fair game whether you like it or not.

My ex got a job finally (after 2 1/2 years) and I could file for a Material Change of Circumstances and get CS adjusted ... but it's not worth the risk until my son ages out and I have to go back anyway.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby Fatheroffour » Thu Feb 23, 2017 6:46 am

IrishGuy55555 wrote:
My ex argued that they were simply roommates and not in a relationship. As far as the emails and text messages (including comments she made under deposition) from my ex talking about how much she loved this new man my ex's attorney basically stated something along the following lines: "What happened, your honor, is that the ex-husband sent some really mean emails and text messages to my client years ago stating what a bad mother and horrible lover she was. Now we can't actually FIND any of those emails (and for some reason they were never submitted in court back when this occurred) but trust us - it did happen. Well, this of course angered my client so she sent the messages that the ex-husband submitted out of anger to make him jealous. But there never REALLY was a relationship. She just really enjoys living 600 miles away from her son with her platonic roommate."

Basically, the argument was that she still lives with the man, she has lived with him for over four years, but my ex basically lied under oath about loving this man in the past so all of her past comments should be ignored. Oh, but NOW she is telling the truth, and not just because she wants to keep collecting alimony.

And the argument worked. But I do think a lot of it is due to our judge who has (in my opinion) been biased from the start. I like to think there is a good chance things could have gone differently with different judge, but who knows? From what I've seen men in general do not have much luck when it comes to divorce in Minnesota.

I had a roommate years ago. Great guy. Loved that guy. Smart. Funny. Paid his bills on time. Loved him, but we weren't married.

You approached the issue like an ex husband looking to get out of paying alimony. From that narrow perspective, given the information you have relayed here, thats likely why you were not successful.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby IrishGuy55555 » Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:15 pm

Fatheroffour wrote:
You approached the issue like an ex husband looking to get out of paying alimony. From that narrow perspective, given the information you have relayed here, thats likely why you were not successful.

Actually it's exactly the opposite. I approached it based on the letter of the new cohabitation law with an abundance of evidence which showed that my ex has a much higher standard of living than I do. She has far more expendable income than my son and I have combined. She is also able to contribute to a retirement plan and is accruing more each year in both her savings and checking despite her spending. Spousal maintenance was agreed upon when we divorced based upon the expenses she submitted to get her own place (rent, auto payment, etc.) She previously budgeted $600 for rent but has never paid rent since moving out over four years ago. She budgeted a $250 car payment years back and again now but has never purchased a car. She budgeted almost two and a half times the actual amount of taxes she pays on alimony (we submitted her tax statements and proved this). Not only was all of this submitted but my attorney addressed each of these topics and many more during court. The rent and taxes on alimony alone were worth an additional $842 a month to her compared to what she had budgeted. I would have been happy if the judge simply ruled on those two items and reduced alimony by $842. Heck, split the difference and put $421 back in my pocket.

The attorney that I retained for my appeal used to be very active on this site and was very highly recommended by many members here. After going over the evidence that was submitted and our arguments in court he asked me "How did you lose this thing?" I told him that was a good question that I can't answer either.

So do I like paying alimony? No. I'm not against the principle behind it. I get that people need help to get back on their feet. But my ex was never a stay-at-home mom. It's one thing to move hundreds of miles away from your kid, downgrade your income by taking practically a minimum wage job and shack up with a boyfriend to live off of alimony. It's another thing to lie about it in court, but knowing my ex I wasn't surprised. What has surprised me is when the judge not only condones but encourages the behavior and believes that INCREASING spousal maintenance is the most "fair" ruling. I would challenge anyone to find a similar case where the genders are reversed and the dad is given more alimony for moving away and shacking up with a sugar momma while mom is raising the kid by herself and sending dad checks every month.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby Poor4Four » Sat Mar 11, 2017 9:40 pm

Thanks for the update. Do you have a sense of what the timing will be on the appeal? Did the Judge justify in writing why she was entitled to even more support?
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby JimRockford » Sun Mar 12, 2017 4:42 pm

After reading through this thread, I was initially under the impression that the judge is somehow personally opposed to the new law and is attempting to send a message with ruling that was passed down. However, after reading up a little more about alimony in Minnesota, I am getting the feeling that it may go deeper than that.

Even though it was passed overwhelmingly in both houses, It appears that this new law is quite a departure from past history in Minnesota in regard to spousal support. I also read a few stories where even with the new law, not too much relief is being handed down. Granted my research is superficial, but it appears that it's almost as if a significant portion of the judiciary believes as the OP's judge and are basically expressing their opposition from the bench. If that is the case, I would imagine that it will be up to the appeals courts to set the tone.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby IrishGuy55555 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 12:46 pm


There was an interesting wrinkle in the progress of the appeal. It was selected to go to mediation which essentially puts the appeal process on hold (I'm not sure if this is as common elsewhere as it is in Minnesota), but then my ex chose not to retain representation which in turn caused the mediation requirement to be reversed and started the clock ticking again. But this means that transcripts now aren't due until late April, which will mean our brief will be due by late May, followed by her counter and then our counter. I'm know I'm stating this in layman's terms based upon my limited experience and understanding of the process, but basically it will be quite a while before this gets ruled upon in the appellate court.

The increase to spousal maintenance was a counter-motion from my ex requesting a COLA increase. That in itself is bothersome to me, since I have sole custody of our son (which includes all expenses except one-third medical), and I have been sinking in debt while my ex is accruing savings and retirement (clearly shown by financial statements from both of us). However, two other rulings were related to < parenting time > which was not motioned for by either side. Also, in the memorandum section of the ruling there are issues such as:

Judge states that my ex pays rent to the man she lives with despite ex admitting in court and in her counter-motion that she does not pay rent.

My ex's actual expenses per her financial statements are over $700 less a month than her budget yet the judge accepted her budget.

Certain items budgeted by my ex were proven false in our motion (a car payment that doesn't exist; vastly overbudgeting for tax on spousal maintenance) yet this was ignored by the judge.

Certain items were ignored by my ex (the man bought her a laptop computer and a tanning bed). They were never denied by my ex - her attorney just asked why we felt they were relevant to which we responded that as gifts they help establish a relationship between my ex and the man. But they just failed to ever respond, and the judge apparently felt either that it was acceptable to ignore our requests about these items or that these are normal gifts that roommates would purchase for each other.

The judge accepted my ex's argument that she was lying years ago in written correspondence about being in love with the man and being in a relationship with him (even during deposition), and accepted that the man ended his 10+ year relationship with my ex's mom to help out my ex as a friend (and continues to do so).

And the list goes on...


My research of the new cohabitation law came to the same results you found. It is not having much success in court which appears to be due to the judges' interpretation of the law. One person I heard from shared that the judge assigned to their case commented: "You mean to tell me some legislator can change my order... I don't think so" and denied their motion under the same law. Personally, I interpret that as a judge explicitly admitting that they have no intention of administering a law that they are sworn to uphold. I guess I was very naïve for much of my life. I never doubted that judges would make bias decisions - it's human nature and bound to happen at times. But comments like that seem to be incredibly arrogant to me, and would indicate that there is no fear of ramification which I would not have expected. Unless the judge is Steven Seagal they should not be "Above the Law". :lol:

In my case though I think it is due mainly due to bias from the judge assigned to my case. I don't think there is any evidence I could have provided that would have resulted in a different outcome as this judge has already ruled against me at every opportunity. She allowed my ex to choose and switch therapists three times, and then allowed her to terminate therapy for our son based only on her desire and not that of myself, our son or any of the therapists.

Take for example the ruling for weekly phone calls that wasn't even motioned for. It specified a day and time each week that she should call to talk to our son. We are ten weeks into 2017 and she has talked to him five times (once about every other week). She has never called on the appointed day or time, and three of the five calls didn't last more than five minutes. She visited him in January (about twelve hours total over two days but refused to do an overnight despite the judges ruling) and she told him she won't see him again until probably July. But I remind him to be available for her call on the designated day every week because - even though she has never called at the appointed day/time - if she DOES one time call and he misses the call for any reason I have no doubt whatsoever that the judge will find me to be in contempt of court. So a ruling that seems like a good thing is just something I need to be aware of each week and puts our son in a position of waiting for calls that he knows aren't going to happen anyway. If I ask my ex to call at the appointed time she will claim I am harassing her. If I push my son to talk to her about calling at the planned time I will be putting him in the middle of things. I know this sounds crazy but it is what I have lived with for years now. My ex has made this into a game and she got the judge to play along.

I used to try to speak up for what is best for our son but I've been taught repeatedly it's just better to play along as well. But the only one that loses in this is our son because he has come to expect that he is only worth the little bit of time that his mom can spare for him around her schedule. And I can't even begin to understand how a phone call every other week and a visit every six months would be enough time with him. Thankfully I have time with him every day which honestly is worth everything else I've had to deal with. I am admittedly biased on this issue but he's an amazing kid.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby massdad1234 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:05 pm

How sold are you on your lawyer? Part of me thinks he is a derp and taking you for a ride.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby IrishGuy55555 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:18 pm

massdad1234 wrote:How sold are you on your lawyer? Part of me thinks he is a derp and taking you for a ride.

The attorney I previously used was younger but was a bright guy and put a lot of good work into the case. For the appeal I switched to a much more experienced attorney. My new attorney is / was a moderator and frequent poster on this site and comes highly recommended by members here. So I've got about the best I can hope for going forward.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby IrishGuy55555 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:30 am

Finally some more movement on my appeal. My attorney filed our motion this week and did a really great job putting it together. He is known to be a straight shooter but was optimistic, which makes me at least cautiously optimistic myself. My ex still does not have an attorney retained but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes soon. She has 30 days to respond to our motion, and we have 10 more days to counter after that. I'm hopeful that a new set of eyes reviewing the case will result in a different ruling. There have been a couple of "wins" in Minnesota under the new cohabitation law since my last post which is somewhat reaffirming.

As far as the weekly phone calls and overnight visits we all agreed to in court: My ex was laid off a couple of months ago, but despite having all of the time in the world now she only calls to talk to our son about once a month. And big surprise - she let me know she's still not planning an overnight visit when she comes to town for her next < parenting time >. I don't get how talking to your only son once a month and visiting with him for about 12 hours every five months is enough. I couldn't do it. I'm thankful for all the time we get together and how close it has brought us. It's pretty cool when your teenager actually wants to hang out with you. :P

I'll keep everyone posted on the progress as things move forward.
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Re: Advice on Attempt to Revise Spousal Maintenance

Unread postby IrishGuy55555 » Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:03 pm

Another update on my appeal (in case anyone is interested) since I haven’t posted for a couple of months.

At the last moment my ex elected to obtain her attorney for representation. No surprise there since she has far more expendable income than I do. Also, the guy she lives with made his fortune in court by suing the family of a former employer after the employer passed away, and I am sure he is coaching her every step of the way. I miss the old days when people acquired a skill and then worked to earn money to support themselves instead of using lawyers to take money from others…

My attorney advised that there were no real surprises in my ex’s responsive brief (which was a relief since I didn’t see anything that greatly concerned me either but I’m obviously not the legal expert he is). While I know that appeals have a small percentage of resulting in a change to the previous ruling, my attorney is known for being a “straight shooter” and he did state that a remand is quite possible which still gives me hope.

Oral arguments are scheduled for the middle of next month, and the appellate court has 90 days to submit a ruling which means I should have resolution by mid-October, whether it’s the response I want or not.

A downside to all of this has been that I was forced to file bankruptcy a couple months ago. When I fought alimony in the district court I provided ample evidence that if something didn’t change soon my son and I would lose our home since I was essentially paying two mortgages every months with spousal maintenance while supporting my son with almost no help at all from my ex. Our home is modest and by no means extravagant, and my only two options were bankruptcy or moving to something extremely small in a lower income area which would result in my son having to change schools. While it is a huge blow to my ego to admit financial defeat I would much rather swallow my pride if it helps to keep my son’s life as normal as possible. So I find myself in a position where I am forced to make choices I never would have imagined years ago. I thought it was ironic that I easily got the bankruptcy approved using the same financial information that the divorce judge seemed to ignore. I also found it interesting that following the last battle in court my ex lost her job but apparently has been able to survive on just alimony. Of course, it probably helps when you admittedly don’t pay any rent (although our judge still ruled that this is simply a platonic relationship with one friend helping out another for almost five years now).

An upside has been that I have been in contact with a group that has been pushing for (and that has been at least partially responsible for) alimony reform in our state. The person who started the group has been extremely helpful and put me in touch with a local newspaper reporter that has covered stories related to alimony reform in the past. And while getting my story out after the ruling on my appeal won’t help my case, it will hopefully open people’s eyes to some problems in our family court system that I myself was unaware of until they impacted my life. I was also recently invited to join the reform group’s steering committee which I was honored to accept. It will be nice to have a voice – even if it is just a small one – regarding future legislation around alimony and the cohabitation issue. I’ve been impressed with what the group has already accomplished, and look forward to what can be done in the future.

As before, I’ll keep people here posted going forward. I’m hoping to use up a vacation day from work to attend the oral arguments for the appeal. While I’ll only be there as an observer I’m sure it will be an interesting and hopefully I’ll learn a little more about our legal system that I can share here.

And as always, thanks again for all of the support and advice I have received here from others.
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