May 7, 2019

Living Together and Alimony

Alimony does not automatically end when the recipient starts living with a boyfriend or girlfriend.  For it to end, or be reduced, the payer has to meet a heavy burden.  The cost of that burden both financially and emotionally may or may not justify the potential result.

The payer first has to prove that the recipient is living with someone in a romantic relationship.  But that is not enough.  The payer must also prove that the recipient’s financial needs are decreased as a result of the shared household.  Only with both of those facts established is the payer in a position to try to convince a judge that ordering an alimony reduction, suspension or termination is justified.  There can be no guaranty that a judge will agree.

Proving those facts requires investigation.  It may involve hiring a private detective, researching Facebook and other social media, intrusive questioning, possibly under oath, of the recipient, the significant other, neighbors, friends, and others and delving into bank, credit card and other financial information.  Then evidence of those facts must be presented in open court. Those investigative and courtroom efforts can be uncomfortably intrusive to the recipient and expensive to both payer and recipient with no guaranty of ultimate success for either party.  Although the burden of establishing the necessary facts and convincing a judge to make a change is high, it is not impossible.  For example, in one of my cases, a recipient gave up her residence and job, then moved in with her boyfriend who paid all expenses of the shared household.  On the facts of the case, the judge agreed termination of alimony was justified.

Whether you are receiving alimony and considering moving in with your significant other or paying alimony to an ex who is moving in with their boyfriend or girlfriend, it is smart to consult with an attorney as far in advance as possible-before rather than after you make the move or threaten court action to terminate alimony.  Together you can develop a strategy to maximize the chances of a successful outcome.  For example, it might make sense for the alimony payer to wait a few months to seek a reduction or termination until the evidence of cohabitation is more firmly established.

In any event, pursuing or defending a cohabitation case is generally complex and definitely not a do-it-yourself endeavor.  An experienced attorney can help you make a cost benefit analysis, assist in a negotiated resolution or, if need be, advocate for you in court. 

Where appropriate, the potential for cohabitation should be considered as part of the pre-divorce settlement negotiations.  The law allows divorcing spouses to make their own rules for alimony and cohabitation in a settlement agreement, limiting or even avoiding altogether, the cost and uncertainty of litigation. 

This post originally appeared in the May 2, 2019 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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