What is “Cohabitation”, and How Can It Affect My Divorce Settlements?
During any Morris County divorce, the key issues of alimony and child support are decided based upon the circumstances of both parties at the time of their divorce. If one of these remarries after the divorce, it can drastically change their financial circumstances, and as such warrant modifications to those agreements.
However, what happens when a divorced party doesn’t legally remarry, but chooses instead to enter into the kind of mutually supportive and intimate personal relationship normally associated with marriage or a civil union? This type of relationship is defined as “cohabitation”, and can have just as great an impact on existing alimony agreements that a remarriage or civil union could.
How Does NJ Law Define “Cohabitation”?
Chester, NJ Divorce Settlement Modification Lawyers
As previously mentioned, New Jersey legislature has defined cohabitation as being a “mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union.”
This doesn’t necessarily that the couple needs to be living together full-time in order for a court to find that a cohabitative relationship exists, rather, the courts will consider the following factors when determining whether or not a couple is cohabitating:
- 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 cicles
- 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
These factors for cohabitation were established through a variety of previous cases, and have now been grouped together and defined in New Jersey’s alimony statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n).
How Can Cohabitation Affect My Alimony Settlement?
Mendham, NJ Alimony Modification Attorney
If a party who is paying alimony to a former spouse believes that that spouse has entered into a cohabitative relationship with another adult, the supporting party may wish to pursue an alimony modification petition. 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.
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 basically means that there is suggestive evidence for something at first appearance, and in the case of cohabitation, as long as you can demonstrate evidence which suggests your former spouse may be cohabitating with another adult, the courts will move your case into the discovery phase, meaning you and your Mendham, NJ alimony modification attorney can request that financial documents be provided by your former spouse in a process known as discovery.
By having access to things like bank records, living expenses, and legal interviews in the form of depositions through the discovery process, you and your attorney can obtain the evidence necessary to definitively proving that a cohabitative relationship exists, one which warrants a modification to your existing alimony agreement.
If you are receiving alimony payments, and are in a romantic relationship with another adult, you should take a serious look at the factors outlined above in order to gain a better understanding of whether or not your romantic relationship will affect your entitlement to alimony.
Morristown Spousal Support Lawyers Help Clients in Modification Hearings
At The Law Office of Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients across Chester, Mendham, Chatham, Harding, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area with post-divorce modification proceedings of all kinds, including alimony modifications.
Whether you are currently paying alimony to a party who has entered into a cohabitative relationship, or have begun a relationship with another adult which may affect your existing alimony agreement, our firm is ready to provide you with the knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate legal counsel that you need and deserve in matters which have such potential to impact your financial responsibilities and stability. By practicing exclusively family and divorce law, our attorneys can focus on the issues most important to you and your family, staying current in New Jersey family law, and refine our ability to work closely with each client, and keep them informed and involved throughout the legal process.
To speak with our firm today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, alimony agreement, or alimony modification concern, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 828-0829.