Alimony and Cohabitation: What to Know

If you and your spouse are divorcing, you likely are deeply involved in the resolution of several related issues, such as child custody and visitation, child support, the division of marital debts and assets, and more. While many people just assume that alimony (also known as spousal support) is a largely forgotten benefit, it still exists and can make a huge financial difference for the spouse that deserves and needs it. While every divorce is different, the spousal support provision in most divorces dictate that the support payments end when the receiving spouse gets married again. Cohabitation can present a confusing issue for those receiving spousal support, however. Read to learn more about spousal support and cohabitation. 

Just Living Together 

More couples than ever before are moving in with each other and living together for an extended period of time without the "benefit" of a legal marriage. Couples who live together often site the need to get to know one another better before committing to a legal marriage. It's also easy to imagine that some people who have experienced a failed marriage are not very eager to make the same mistakes again. While it may be far fetched to allege that cohabitation is fully accepted, it has now become so commonplace that few people view the situation scandalously anymore.

Is Spousal Support Still Needed?

Since the main purpose of spousal support is to allow a spouse who may have given up a chance for a career or a more advanced education the opportunity to gain some financial equity, the issue of the appropriateness of spousal support for those cohabiting comes into question. The answer likely depends on whether or not the former spouse is in a relationship that now includes the support that spousal support was meant to provide.

A former spouse who is receiving spousal support and living with a partner should not necessarily raise an alarm that the party is "double dipping". The only type of support at issue is financial support, and a careful examination of the financial situation of the cohabiting couple may be called for. The financial arrangements of couples can vary widely, and there may be little to no financial support being contributed from the ex-spouse's partner to the living arrangement. If you are paying your ex-spouse support and they are living with another person, regardless of the relationship, you may need to request a reevaluation of your spousal support order.

Spousal Support Alterations

If the judge has to make a ruling on just how financially "supportive" your ex-spouse's living situation is, several questions may be asked, such as:

  • Are both of the couple's names on the lease agreement or mortgage?
  • Does the couple spend nearly every night together?
  • Does the couple have joint bank accounts or other joint debts?

If you have questions about spousal support and cohabitation, talk to a family law attorney like those at Baudler, Maus, Forman, Kritzer & Wagner, LLP for more information.