What is Cohabitation and can it impact my Alimony Settlement Agreement?
Monmouth County Cohabitation and Alimony Lawyers
Alimony can be terminated, modified or suspended based on a finding of cohabitation. Cohabitation is usually defined as two people who are living together, in a serious committed relationship that there’s financial interdependence. If you believe that your ex-spouse is cohabiting and you are paying out money then you should file an application with the court to modify or terminate your alimony. The burden after you provide any proofs that you have shifts to your ex-spouse to proof that they are not cohabiting.
Application to Modify or Terminate Alimony Based on Cohabitation
Definition of Cohabitation in NJ
The definition of Cohabitation as defined in New Jersey is as follows: “mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union.”
Factors the Judge will Consider when Ruling on Cohabitation
- If the couple shares finances like joint bank accounts or shared holdings and/or liabilities
- If the couple share responsibilities for living expenses
- Recognition of the relationship by family and social circles
- Whether or not the couple is living together, and if not, the frequency of contact, and the duration of the relationship in question
- If the couple shares household chores
- Any other evidence the court deems relevant
A common misconception occurs when a couple does not live in under the same roof “full-time”, and based on that fact the couple feels that they are protected from any financial implications that would arise from a cohabitant relationship. Instead of drawing a hard line on the concept of “full-time”, the courts will consider a number of different factors when determining and ruling on cohabitation and a potential impact on alimony.
How Can Cohabitation in Ocean County NJ Affect my Alimony?
If a party who is paying alimony to a former spouse believes that that spouse has entered into a relationship and shares a space as a cohabitant with another adult, the supporting party may wish to pursue an alimony modification petition. A paying spouse will have to file a motion to modify or terminate alimony and set a hearing before a judge. If the court decides that a supported spouse’s new boyfriend or girlfriend is cohabitating, a judge may reduce, or in some cases end, spousal support.
In the case of a remarriage, proving that the dependent spouse now has another source of financial support, and thus may no longer require as much as support as is currently being paid in the existing agreement, is relatively straightforward.
“Prima Facie” and The Discovery Process
In the case of cohabitation, however, proving that cohabitation exists can be somewhat more difficult. For example, it may be particularly difficult to know, or prove, whether or not your former spouse is sharing a bank account with their new partner. This is where the legal idea of “prima facie” comes into play. Prima facie involves the process of essentially vetting the case or the argument and determining whether or not to move it into the discovery phase.
Once in the discovery phase, you and your attorney will be awarded the opportunity to pursue and review necessary documentation, depose witnesses, and obtain the evidence necessary to definitively prove that a cohabitative relationship exists, one which warrants a modification to your existing alimony agreement. It is highly recommended that you retain counsel who, at this point in the process, will be looking into bank records, pay stubs, privately owned business records, living expenses, payment of living expenses, and most importantly you will conduct legal interviews in the form of depositions. In most circumstances, this information is difficult to dispute and it is very clear that cohabitation has occurred and even the length of time the couple has been under the same roof.
How to Modify Alimony Based on Cohabitation in Toms River NJ?
There are a number of cases that helped establish this precedent for determining cohabitation, and the New Jersey Case Law groups said cases together and provide the legal definition in New Jersey’s alimony statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n). Here is a basic look at the process, that should be prepared, reviewed, and delivered by an experienced Ocean County Attorney.
- A paying spouse will have to file a motion to modify or terminate alimony and set a hearing before a judge.
- If the court decides that a supported spouse’s new boyfriend or girlfriend is cohabitating, a judge may reduce, or in some cases end, spousal support.
- Courts will typically reduce a spousal support award by the amount of the cohabitant’s monetary contributions.
- Couples can include a provision in their divorce settlement or final divorce judgment that makes cohabitation a triggering event to terminate alimony.
- In cases where the divorce order is silent, a cohabitation relationship may still be enough to justify a reduction in spousal support.
Contact a Wall NJ Cohabitation and Alimony Lawyer Today
Attorney Peter J. Bronzino has received countless favorable reviews from past clients, their words speak for themselves. If you are looking for an experienced, knowledgeable, hard-working and tenacious alimony attorney, look no further. Bronzino Law Firm is ready to begin advising you and fighting for your rights today.
To schedule a free and confidential consultation with our offices today, contact us online or through our Brick, NJ office at (732) 812-3102. We also handle modifications of existing alimony agreements, as well as enforcement of alimony when your ex is not complying with the agreed upon terms.