When alimony is included in a New Jersey divorce settlement, both the paying and the receiving ex-spouses may wonder what the potential effect is on the paying of alimony if the receiving spouse enters into a cohabitation arrangement with a new partner. The answer can be more complicated than you might imagine.
In 2014, New Jersey overhauled its divorce and alimony law. The new statutes 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, but are not limited to, the following:
- 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 statutes state 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 new 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 agreement that addresses cohabitation.
Whether you are paying or receiving alimony, if the receiving ex-spouse has entered into a relationship with another person that may be considered cohabitation under New Jersey law, you should consult with a New Jersey family law attorney.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often proves crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.