The Minnesota Legislature has just opened its 2016 session, and as usual, there is a lot on lawmakers’ plates this year. Among the issues that legislators could tackle this session is whether to change Minnesota’s spousal support system.

As we have discussed before in this blog, spousal maintenance, commonly known as alimony, is a series of payments from one former spouse to the other. The purpose is to make up for big income disparities between exes, such as when one spouse gave up his or her career while the other earned all the household income during the marriage. When the marriage ends, the spouse who did not work outside the home often struggles to get a job after years away from the workforce.

Generally, the court provides for temporary alimony, to give the spouse receiving the payments time to get back on his or her feet. In some cases, such as when it appears the spouse will never be able to support him- or herself, the court orders the other spouse to pay permanent alimony, or support with no set end date.

Permanent spousal support is controversial in many states, and Minnesota is no exception, as WCCO-TV reports. Critics say that it is outdated and comes from a time when women were expected to be homemakers and totally dependent on their husbands for money. Rep. Peggy Scott considers the issue a matter of “fairness and abuse of the system,” suggesting that many ex-wives receiving permanent alimony are cohabiting with a new partner and do not need alimony to meet everyday expenses.

Last year, Scott introduced a bill to redefine cohabitation under Minnesota’s spousal maintenance laws. That bill failed, but Scott plans to try again this session, with help from the state Bar Association.

If this bill becomes law, it could seriously affect many future divorces. This is why it is so important that your divorce attorney possess a deep and up-to-date understanding of Minnesota’s family law.