How Does Cohabitation Affect Divorce and Alimony?

Following a divorce, one spouse may owe alimony or spousal support to the other to help make up for differences in income and adjusting to single living. However, due to rising housing costs in many areas of the United States, many divorced couples are opting to remain in cohabitation to cut down on living expenses. Others find living arrangements with new partners, effectively cutting down on their individual living expenses by cohabiting with someone else. It is vital to understand how cohabitation can influence alimony and spousal support obligations.

Cohabitation Can Limit Your Right to Alimony

The purpose of alimony is to ensure that a lower-earning spouse can maintain his or her quality of life following divorce when he or she will no longer have access to the other spouse’s income. Depending on where the divorced couple lives, housing costs may be too much for a lower-earning spouse to handle alone. Most states refer to the alimony recipient’s living situation to determine any applicable reductions or terminations.

If an alimony recipient remains in a single living situation, then alimony payments will likely continue uninterrupted in accordance with the divorce agreement. However, if an alimony recipient starts living with someone else, then a California court will likely consider his or her need for alimony reduced. Unless the recipient can prove that he or she still needs alimony, the judge reviewing the divorce case will likely terminate the alimony payments.

Alimony Stipulations

It is possible for a divorcing couple to come up with an alimony arrangement that does not hinge on the recipient’s living situation, but this is very rare. An alimony-paying divorcee will likely prefer to stop paying alimony as soon as possible rather than continue paying even after the recipient no longer needs it. It is also important to remember that while some state laws uphold stipulations concerning alimony recipients cohabiting with members of the opposite sex, these standards are more flexible today in light of growing acceptance of LGBT relationships. Ultimately, a judge may decide that an alimony recipient does not need alimony anymore if he or she has a roommate of either sex, regardless of the nature of their relationship.

Most alimony arrangements will have clear terms for the amount owed, timelines for payments, and conditions that would alter or nullify the arrangement. A divorcing couple may include several possible stipulations in an alimony arrangement:

  • Alimony reduces if the recipient obtains a higher-earning job.
  • Alimony terminates if the recipient cohabits with anyone else, effectively reducing the financial burden of living expenses.
  • Alimony terminates if the recipient remarries.
  • Alimony terminates if the recipient fails to properly disclose pertinent life changes or changes in living expenses.

It is also vital to remember that child support is completely separate from alimony. It is possible and likely that an alimony recipient with children will continue to receive child support after remarrying or after starting cohabitation with a new partner, although alimony payments may stop.

Why Divorce Attorneys Are So Important for Alimony Arrangements

This is one of the reasons why each party in a divorce needs legal representation. A divorce attorney can help his or her clients prove the need for alimony and encourage an alimony arrangement that is fair to all parties involved. A divorce attorney will help ensure that an alimony recipient receives alimony as long as he or she needs it, and the alimony-paying party’s attorney will help ensure that he or she does not pay more than necessary or longer than necessary.

Anyone expecting a divorce in the near future with concerns over alimony should take the time to find a divorce attorney who can help ensure a fair and equitable divorce arrangement. An attorney can also help a client understand his or her rights and obligations in terms of alimony payments to avoid legal penalties or undue financial strain.