In 2014, New Jersey overhauled its divorce and alimony law, including a new statute that defined cohabitation as “a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.”
The 2014 cohabitation statute detailed several factors that a court must consider when determining if the relationship between an ex-spouse receiving alimony and another person can be considered cohabitation. Those factors include:
- Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities;
- Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses;
- Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle;
- Living together, the frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship;
- Sharing household chores;
- Whether the recipient of alimony has received an enforceable promise of support from another person;
- All other relevant evidence.
In addition, the statute specifies that the court must consider the length of the relationship in determining whether or not the payment of alimony should be suspended or terminated. The statute does not require that the cohabitating parties physically live together if they meet all the determining factors as outlined above.
Under the 2014 statute, the Court is permitted to suspend or terminate alimony based on a finding of cohabitation. The paying spouse must petition the court for an order to terminate based on cohabitation. He or she must also prove that cohabitation, as defined by New Jersey law, exists between the receiving party and another person.
In some cases, the court may reduce instead of terminate alimony in the event of cohabitation, weighing the cohabitant’s financial contributions to the receiving spouse’s living expenses. If that contribution is less than the alimony amount, the court may elect to reduce alimony by the amount contributed by the cohabitant.
In some circumstances, the prior law may still apply — for example, if there is a prior settlement agreement that addresses cohabitation.
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