When an alimony award is provided, especially one for long-term alimony (as of 2014, New Jersey has no permanent alimony), it is hard to get that alimony modified, but it can be done. One factor that courts look at when lowering or even eliminating an alimony obligation is cohabitation.

The law says that alimony can terminate if it is shown that the payee spouse (the spouse receiving the alimony) is cohabitating with someone else.

What Exactly is Cohabitation?

But that has led to a lot of litigation over what cohabitation actually is. A new significant other who spends five nights a week at the payee’s house may not have officially “moved in,” but the parties are clearly living together. Payee spouses, aware that marriage will definitely end alimony, may put off marriage for just that reason.

So what exactly is cohabitation? There are a number of factors that courts will look at. Some include:

  • Shared expenses for the household
  • Shared chores, duties, or upkeep of the household or the parties’ family members
  • The extent that the parties have mixed their finances
  • Whether there are traditional aspects of a supportive and intimate (or marriage) relationship
  • Anything else the court deems to be indicative of a cohabitation relationship
  • The duration of the relationship
  • Whether others, particularly the parties’ families, recognize and acknowledge the relationship

Someone who wants alimony terminated because their spouse is now cohabitating with someone else needs to show actual cohabitation—just being in a relationship will not meet the burden needed to terminate alimony.

However, cohabitation does not actually mean sharing a household; two parties can still have their own houses and be considered to be cohabitating for alimony termination purposes. Even just a part-time sharing of a home can be sufficient.

How Do You Know?

As you can see, many of the factors above are private and may not even be known by the spouse seeking to end the alimony obligation. Sometimes, private investigators may need to be hired to document the evidence needed to see if there are grounds for termination of alimony.

If you file a case to terminate alimony on the basis of cohabitation, it will be your burden, as the party seeking to modify alimony, to show that there is evidence of cohabitation. This can be hard to do at the start of a case, as you may not yet have the evidence you need to show a cohabitation relationship.

Once you show that burden, the case will move forward, and your ex-spouse can then dispute your allegations.

Note that parties that are able to work out an amicable resolution to their divorce on their own can stipulate what cohabitation will mean and when it will terminate alimony.

Need to modify child support or alimony? Contact our New Jersey family law attorneys at The Law Office of Agnes Rybar LLC today with questions about your family law case.




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