Did you know that if you are receiving or paying Court ordered spousal support there are several terminating events that could end your financial support or obligations? Besides death, death of the supporting spouse, and remarriage, cohabitating with a partner is by statue an event that can end Court ordered spousal support.
But what is cohabitation?
Cohabitation is defined as the act of two adults dwelling together continuously and habitually in a private heterosexual or homosexual relationship, even if this relationship is not solemnized by marriage. Cohabitation is evidenced by the voluntary mutual assumption of those marital rights, duties, and obligations which are usually manifested by married people, and which include, but are not necessarily dependent on, sexual relations. In simple terms, cohabitation means that you and you partner are continually living together and have assumed the rights and responsibilities of a married couple.
How does the Court determine if a couple is cohabitating?
Cohabitation as a terminating event is designed to prevent people from avoiding engagement or marriage but acting like a married couple in order for a one party to continue to receive alimony. At a cohabitation hearing, the Court will look at some of the following factors to determine if a couple is cohabitating and acting like a married couple:
- Are the parties living together? If the parties are not living together then how many overnights per week or per month are the parties spending together? Are the parties spending the majority of overnights together?
- Do the parties have shared finances? This can look like a shared checking account, savings account, or a joint credit card.
- Do the parties split any expenses? Some examples are being on the same phone plan, same streaming service plans, or one party paying for the other’s living expenses. Do they split expenses or does one party always pay for joint expenses?
- Do the parties go on dates or trips? Who plans and pays for such activities?
- Do the parties hold themselves out as a married couple? Would family and friends describe the couple as engaged or married? Would a neighbor reasonably assume that they are a couple that lives together?
- Other miscellaneous factors: Do the parties leave clothes or personal items at the other’s residence? Does one party perform maintenance or chores at the other’s residence? Does one party receive mail at the other’s residence? Do the parties attend religious activities together?
How are alimony payments due to cohabitation terminated?
In order to terminate alimony payments due to cohabitation, a motion must be filed, and a hearing must be held. The supporting spouse cannot stop or pause alimony payments because of allegations or the belief that the dependent spouse is cohabitating. When determining whether to stop alimony due to cohabitation, the Court will look at the totality of the facts and factors present in each specific case.
It is important to note that if you are receiving alimony as part of an Agreement then different terminating events may apply to your situation.
If you are receiving alimony and believe that you are at risk of losing your alimony due to cohabitation or if you are paying alimony to an ex-spouse and wish to cease your payments to your ex-spouse due to cohabitation, please reach out to a family law attorney at Skufca Law today to discuss your situation.