The purpose of paying alimony is to support former spouses who are in need of income to help them get back on their feet, or to help them pay their living expenses if they are unable to do so. It is, of course, a bit more complicated than that, but both the receiving spouse’s need, and the paying spouse’s ability to pay, are both big factors in New Jersey alimony law.
A New Partner
What happens when a receiving spouse no longer has the need for alimony? This often happens when the receiving spouse meets another significant other. The new partner and the receiving spouse may even move in together. Does a former spouse paying alimony still have to continue paying, even after the receiving spouse has moved in with someone else?
New Jersey family law allows a party to terminate alimony, where the receiving former spouse cohabitates with a new partner. However, simply living together is not enough. To terminate the alimony obligation, the paying spouse must show the court some, or all, of the following:
- That the former spouse and the new partner have intertwined their bank accounts (or similar assets)
- That they are sharing in each other’s living expenses
- Social factors, such as whether the parties hold themselves out as a couple to friends and family, how often they interact, whether they share non-monetary household obligations, and whether there are elements of an intimate personal relationship
Proving Cohabitation can be Difficult
A simple “dating relationship” will not be enough to terminate alimony. That means that the party seeking to terminate alimony may have to conduct discovery of evidence, to see what expenses the former spouse and new partner are sharing, and to what extent.
However, cohabitation also does not necessarily mean that the parties have to move in together, or, as one New Jersey Court said, a party seeking to terminate alimony does not need to show that the couple is “maintaining a single common household.”
Simply counting how many nights the parties spend together is not sufficient. Parties should ask whether the couple houses personal possessions in the same place, whether the couple vacation together, whether bills and other correspondence are being sent to the same address, or whether the couple attends social and family events together.
Although a paying spouse may be anxious to terminate alimony, a long-term picture of cohabitation may be more persuasive to a judge, and thus, a history of documented factors of cohabitation, perhaps even through the use of a private investigator, is the best strategy.
In an agreed to marital settlement agreement, the parties can make it easier—or harder—to show cohabitation, and thus terminate alimony, by including their own factors that define “cohabitation.” They can also agree not to ever terminate alimony if there is cohabitation, if both parties agree.
Let us help you with your family law problems, both before your divorce, and if needed, after your divorce is finalized. Contact The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC for help and guidance in your family law case.