Navigating Cohabitation & Alimony During a Divorce

If you are divorced and are paying, or receiving, alimony, then you should be aware of changes in the law regarding cohabitation and its impact on alimony. These changes apply, regardless of when you were divorced. Several years ago, the statute governing alimony was amended and now provides that alimony may be terminated, or suspended, based upon cohabitation. The statute defines cohabitation as follows:

 

Cohabitation involves a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n)

 

Prior to this amendment, cohabitation was not defined by statute, leaving it to the courts to determine when cohabitation was occurring. This resulted in different outcomes depending upon the judge. The current statute makes it clear that a couple is not required to share the same address to be considered cohabitating. The statute explicitly states “a court may not find an absence of cohabitation solely on grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis.” Prior to this change, a person seeking to prove cohabitation would have to prove that the couple was living together, or spending many nights together each week at each other’s houses. That is no longer the case.

Now, in order to find that a recipient of alimony is cohabitating, the statute sets forth seven factors a court must consider when asked to terminate alimony due to cohabitation. Those factors are as follows:

 

  1. Intertwined finances, such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities.
  2. Shared or joint responsibility for living expenses.
  3. Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle.
  4. Living together, the frequency, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of mutually supportive intimate personal relationship.
  5. Sharing household chores.
  6. Whether recipient of alimony has received an enforceable promise of support for another person within the meaning of subsection.
  7. All other relevant evidence.

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n)

 

Whether you need to prove all seven factors remains unclear. However, the more evidence you can provide that the couple is in a “mutually supportive intimate personal relationship,” the more likely you are to be able to prove cohabitation and terminate, or suspend, alimony. A mere romantic relationship with regular meetings and some overnight stays is unlikely to be considered cohabitation. A court is not going to permit an investigation of a supported spouse’s private life with little evidence or mere allegations. If you are looking to suspend, or terminate, your alimony obligation due to cohabitation, or if your significant other is accusing you of cohabiting and you need to discuss your legal options, please contact our office for a consultation at 973-292-9222. Our team of Morris County attorneys will work with you to find the right solution and minimize the drama.

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