Today I was in court asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit against my client. Here is the brief synopsis: Two people fell in love and began cohabiting. The Plaintiff (not my client) moved into my client’s home). They spent many years together and then the relationship ended. The parties were NEVER married and had no written agreements about their finances and what would happen if their relationship ended. Well, after it ended, Plaintiff sued my client for a lot of money, trying to get “reimbursed” for all of the money and expenses Plaintiff paid to or on behalf of my client. This included help with the mortgage payment, payment of bills, and helping to update the home.
Minnesota does NOT recognize common law marriage. We also have a very strong cohabitation statute: 513.075 and 513.076 which provides that parties are barred from suing one another if they live out of wedlock and do not have a contract. My interpretation is that, hey, when you are dumb and in love, you naturally pay for lots of items for your significant other. These “payments” are gifts predicated upon love and the relationship. If the payments were conditional and had to be repaid if the relationship failed, there should be a contract saying so. Plaintiff’s attorney, in order to get around the statute, argued “equity”. Essentially, that it would be unfair to allow my client to keep all of the “improvements” made into the home and keep all of the money paid over the many years. Plaintiff claims he/she only wants a refund of all of the money he/she contributed to the relationship and a share of the equity (if any) in the home. The Plaintiff was never on the title of the home.
The entire issue in the case (which is relatively novel in Minnesota) is whether the court should somehow force one cohabitor to pay back or reimburse the other cohabiter when there is absolutely nothing in writing about the situation. Should the law simply hold payments between non-married couples are “gifts”, or should “equity” and fairness come in and allow the “dumped” lover some type of recourse? IF the court rules in favor of the Plaintiff, then, arguably, anyone who ever lived with another would be flooding the courts with lawsuits for “restitution” or reimbursement of all of the credit card payments, car payments and mortgage help made. The intent of the statute listed above is (in my opinion and what I argued) to make sure the public understands that 1. Common law marriage is gone. 2. If you are not married, you don’t get the protections of our divorce laws. 3. Unless you have a written agreement, the payments lovers make to help one-another are “gifts” based upon the loving relationship, nothing more. 4. The law is warning people to protect themselves and make cohabitation agreements so the money spent is not simply labeled as lost gifts.
Poll: What do you think? should people who live together without being married and without a contract be allowed to sue one another for reimbursement for all of the expenses paid during the relationship and any equity they helped create in one of the parties homes by helping pay the mortgage? Let me know your thoughts by sending in e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call Richard W. Hechter & Associates, attorneys in Minneapolis for accidents, divorce and criminal defense, at 952-920-0840. The judge has not ruled yet. The court encouraged us to try and settle before the court rules. Once the court rules, the loser will end up in trial or on appeal to the Minnesota Court Of Appeals – both very expensive and time consuming options.