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Supreme Court hears arguments on divorce contract statute

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [text, PDF] Monday in a case concerning the Minnesota revocation-upon-divorce statute, which revokes an ex-spouse's beneficiary designation once the couple divorces.

The relevant part of the statute [text, PDF] states: "the dissolution or annulment of a marriage revokes any revocable ... beneficiary designation ... made by an individual to the individual's former spouse."

The petitioner [SCOTUSblog, report] is the ex-wife, who was a named beneficiary on her ex-husband's 1997 life insurance policy. The ex-husband passed away in 2011, about four years after the couple divorced, and the children then became the beneficiaries of the life insurance policy. The ex-wife challenged the statute, arguing it violated the Article I of the Constitution [materials], which contains the Contracts Clause and prohibits states from enacting legislation that will interfere with private contracts previously made. The question [text, PDF] before the court is: "Does the application of a revocation-upon-divorce statute to a contract signed before the statute's enactment violate the Contracts Clause?"

The petitioner argued the Minnesota statute is constitutional because it adopts the view set forth in the Uniform Probate Code, which several states have already adopted. The respondent's counterargument is that Minnesota should have enacted a notice requirement, compelling divorce courts to notify individuals of the revocation statute in divorce decrees. The court pressed the respondent arguing that the court's precedent addressed many similar statutes in the past regarding retroactive implementation and held the statutes were not unconstitutional.

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