Q: If my ex spouse and I agree to a modified spousal maintenance amount in mediation, retroactive to a particular date, will the Court honor that agreement?
A: The Court answered that question in Leifur v. Leifur, 820 N.W.2d 40 (Minn. Ct. App. 2012). In Leifur , the ex-husband was ordered to pay spousal maintenance to his ex-wife. A year after they were divorced, he lost his job. He and his ex-wife attended mediation, which was required by their judgment and decree, before either could bring a motion. They came up with an agreement at mediation, which they signed and agreed would be enforceable, including a term that the new spousal maintenance amount would be retroactive to a particular date. About a year later, the ex-wife brought a motion to enforce the agreement, but the Court would not allow retroactivity to the date the parties agreed upon during mediation.
The Court explained that under Minnesota law, particularly Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, the Court was only permitted to modify the spousal maintenance award retroactive to the date the moving party has a motion for modification of maintenance pending. In fact, the Court explained that § 518A.39 explicitly prohibits the Court from awarding retroactive support for periods before a motion for modification is pending. Therefore, the Court reasoned, it was without authority to honor the agreement of the parties as to the retroactivity date.
The lesson is this: parties cannot authorize the Court to do something that is prohibited by statute.
Letty M-S Van Ert is an associate attorney at Tuft & Lach, PLLC located in Maplewood, MN. In addition to representing clients in the areas of estate planning, elder law, probate, divorce, child custody, child support, and other family law matters, she is also a Rule 114 Qualified Neutral (mediator) serving clients in Stillwater, Woodbury, Oakdale, North St. Paul, Roseville, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and surrounding areas.