You got divorced a few years ago and you were ordered by the court to pay your ex-wife alimony. You found out that she has a boyfriend and they have been living together. You are pretty sure that he has been giving her money to pay the rent and other expenses. Can this impact the alimony payment?
Remarriage can often end an alimony award. That is why when an alimony recipient becomes romantically involved with another person, they might decide to cohabit, or live together rather than get married. They want to continue receiving monthly alimony payments.
However, this is not a foolproof solution. Cohabitation can in fact impact alimony. Each state is different when it comes to what constitutes cohabitation, though. For some, it is not just whether or not the parties are living together.
In New York, for example, the alimony recipient must hold themselves out as the husband or wife before alimony can be terminated. Since this rarely happens, those who cohabit in New York do not usually see their alimony payments end. In Illinois, even if the parties live separately, if they spend most of their time together at one person’s home, they can still be considered cohabiting. In Arkansas, the alimony recipient must have children with the new partner before alimony can be terminated. In California and Tennessee, once an alimony recipient cohabits with a new partner, it is assumed that they no longer need financial support, so the alimony ends unless the recipient goes to court and proves otherwise.
In other states, it will depend on what the judge rules. If there is an agreement in place that states whether or not alimony will be affected by various situations, then that agreement will prevail. Otherwise, it can be hard to predict what the judge will rule in a cohabitation case.
What Florida Law Says
Under Florida Statutes Section 61.14, there are many factors that are taken into consideration when determining whether or not alimony should end or at the very least be reduced due to cohabitation. They include the following:
- How the alimony recipient and the partner act toward each other. Do they hold themselves out as a married couple by using the same last name? Do they refer to each other as husband and wife? Do they use the same mailing address?
- The length of time that the parties have lived together.
- The degree in which the parties have pooled their income and assets and operated as a single unit.
- The degree in which one person has supported the other financially.
- The degree in which the parties have performed services for each other.
- Whether or not the parties have jointly purchased an asset, such as a car or home.
- Evidence that the parties have an implied or express agreement regarding property or support.
- Whether or not either party has provided financial support to the other person’s children (but keep in mind that cohabitation does not impact child support payments, since the new partner is not legally obligated to support the child).
Basically, the court wants to know two things — whether or not the new partner financially supports the alimony support and whether or not the new partner lives in the former spouse’s home without contributing to household expenses.
By looking at all the financial documents provided, the judge will determine whether or not the ex-spouse requires the alimony to pay for expenses. The judge will also consider what, if anything, the couple is hiding. Does the couple spend most nights together? Are there extra clothes, toothbrushes and hairbrushes at one partner’s home? Are vehicles hidden to make it look like the partner does not live there? Does the couple share household chores? If so, then these are signs of a cohabitation.
In any case, the court wants to ensure the recipient spouse has adequate financial support. They cannot cut off a person simply because they are living with someone else. Therefore, cohabitating is not always enough to qualify for termination of alimony.
How to Seek a Reduction in Alimony
Your ex-spouse will not like the fact that you are trying to reduce or eliminate his or her support payments. Therefore, you can expect that there will be tension between you and your ex. Because of this, it is always a good idea to discuss any modifications with your ex-spouse first in order to reach a common ground.
If you cannot, then you should discuss the situation with a mediator. This would be easier and less costly than hiring a lawyer. If you still cannot come to an agreement, then you can file a modification with the court. At least by then, you would have exhausted all your options.
Once you file a motion to modify alimony, the discovery process begins. This means that both parties will be required to produce documentation proving or disproving that the recipient should continue to receive spousal support. These documents may include pay stubs, bank accounts, tax returns, loan documents and other statements involving assets and debts.
Seek Legal Help
Alimony does not always last forever. Even if your ex-spouse has not remarried, you may be able to get authorization for the payments to be reduced or terminated altogether.
Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can determine whether or not alimony applies in your case. He can help you achieve a favorable outcome. Call (954) 346-6464 or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation today.