Let’s assume for this discussion that you have settled your divorce, the kids are coping with the change in their lives. You have moved on from your divorce and have found a wonderful new partner in life. You are thinking about moving in with them and taking that relationship to the next level.
You should be aware of the consequences that may arise if you decide to share a home with your new partner. If you have been receiving alimony from your former spouse, entering this arrangement may allow the court to reduce or eliminate your alimony payments.
We can hear the collective gasp out there – “What?!” you say “That’s not fair, I earned that alimony fair and square, the hard way!”
Yes, this is true, and it could impact your alimony arrangement in a big way. A bit of history is in order. This law, originally proposed in 2005, comes from a case where a former husband was paying $5,000 per month in alimony to his former wife. Said wife and her live- in boyfriend staged a Las Vegas Wedding Weekend, complete with t-shirts, inviting guests to the event. According to a video of the festivities, there was a complete mock wedding. Vows and rings were exchanged beneath a traditional wedding canopy and there was a reception with cake and champagne toasts. It had all the trappings of a real wedding, but it was not in fact a legal marriage, in Vegas or anywhere else.
Not surprisingly, the former husband went to court to have his alimony terminated, but the judge in that case denied the petition because there was no valid marriage license and therefore no marriage. As long as the former wife had not really remarried, the alimony award was upheld. As you might expect, the former husband was outraged that the law provided no recourse to him in these circumstances.
The “Supportive Relationship”
The law now provides that a court may determine whether a “supportive relationship” exists for the purpose of reducing or eliminating alimony. If it is found that the companion contributes financially and reduces the living expenses of the person receiving alimony, then the court may reduce or terminate that alimony.
There are a number of factors to be considered, “merely living together” is not a sufficient showing of the financially supportive relationship. The following are the criteria considered, paraphrased for better understanding.
Have the former spouse and companion held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as “my husband” or “my wife,” or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship.
The period of time that the former spouse has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode.
The extent to which the former spouse and companion have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence.
The extent to which the former spouse or companion has supported the other, in whole or in part.
The extent to which the former spouse or companion has performed valuable services for the other.
The extent to which the former spouse or companion has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer.
Whether the former spouse and companion have worked together to create or enhance anything of value.
Whether the former spouse and companion have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.
Whether there is evidence in support of a claim that the former spouse and companion have an express or implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.
Whether the former spouse and companion have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of any legal duty to do so.
You can see how an analysis of these factors could affect an alimony award. Most of the time people living together do have an express or implied agreement to provide support for each other. Very often they comingle their financial affairs with joint checking accounts and the purchase of real property. Questions arise such as “what constitutes valuable services” – mowing the lawn? Does buying ice cream for your significant other’s children amount to “providing support to the children” such that it might affect the alimony award? There is a great deal to consider in this situation.
Public opinion on this particular aspect of the law is split. There are those who think that this is wrong, that alimony should remain intact whether or not the receiving spouse is living with another person. Thenthere are those that say the purpose of alimony is to help the former spouse maintain a certain standard of living, and if they are able to do that through another relationship, then the obligation to pay alimony should be reduced or terminated. Of course, which view you take depends on whether you are the one paying or the one receiving, and there are valid points on both sides of this discussion.
The lesson to take away here is that cohabitation can affect alimony payments, so if you are living with a significant other, you need to be mindful of how a court will view your particular arrangement. If you are paying alimony, and your former spouse is living with someone, there may be recourse to have that reduced or terminated. Finally, keep in mind the obligation to pay alimony is separate and apart from the obligation to pay