The end of a relationship is never pleasant, even in the most amicable of splits. Each party will need to move forward with his or her life, independent of the former spouse. This can be emotionally and financially difficult, especially where the parties have been in a long-term marriage. Minnesota is a “no fault” state, which means neither party is required to prove that the other spouse is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. The no fault rule, however, will not necessarily stop one or even both spouses from feeling angry and hurt. When one spouse has been involved in an affair, the spouse who has been cheated on may be looking for an outlet for his or her anger and frustration. In the past, it was possible for the wronged spouse to file a civil law suit called a “heart balm action.”
In a heart balm action, the plaintiff spouse can sue the other spouse’s paramour. The plaintiff would be required to prove that he or she only lost the affection of the spouse because of the respondent’s conduct. In other words, the plaintiff would have to prove that the paramour was the reason for the divorce.
Only a handful of states still permit heart balm actions, and Minnesota is not one of these states. This means that if your spouse has a new romantic interest and you find yourself facing divorce as a result, you will not have any recourse against your spouse’s new girlfriend or boyfriend. This can feel unfair when a spouse sincerely believes that the new paramour was the primary cause for the breakdown of the marriage. That said, the wronged spouse’s energy and funds are better used by focusing on the divorce and on starting a new life.
Although a heart balm action is not available in Minnesota, the adultery could still potentially be relevant in the divorce. If the adulterous spouse is dissipating marital assets by purchasing large gifts for the new love interest, for example, this could be relevant when dividing marital assets. If the new paramour is dangerous, abuses drugs, or is otherwise unsuitable to be around the parties’ minor children, the identity of the paramour could be relevant in a divorce where custody is at issue.
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