How Does Cohabitation Change Under the New Alimony Statute?
When a divorcee moves on to cohabitate with a new person, their divorce settlements may be subject to change. This can include alimony payments that are made from one former spouse to the other. Under the amended alimony statute in New Jersey, cohabitation is a large topic of discussion. Judges may implement the statute in different ways. Some judges may support applying the pre-amendment legal analysis while others may strictly apply the new language of the statute. Others may even use a combination of the two. These situations can prove to be complex, which is why it is important to retain the services of an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney when facing them.
What is Cohabitation Under the Past Statute?
The New Jersey Supreme Court defines cohabitation in two ways. This is as follows:
- An “intimate,” “close and enduring” relationship that requires “more than a common residence” or mere sexual liaison. The relationship between the two “bears the generic character of a family unit as a relatively permanent household,” is “serious and lasting,” and has “stability, permanency and mutual interdependence.”
- “The couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage.”
Factors that are taken under advisement relating to these situations can include:
- Long-term or romantic involvement
- If the two are living together
- If they have combined finances such as a joint bank account or shared living costs
- The couple’s social and family circle recognizes the relationship
Does Cohabitation Affect Alimony Under the New Statute?
In the new amendment, cohabitation consists of 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.” Under these circumstances, a judge that is faced with a matter of cohabitation will consider the following factors before changing a divorce settlement:
- Joined finances and liabilities
- Sharing or joint responsibility for living overheads
- Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle
- Living together, the regularity of contact, the extent of the relationship, and other aspects of an equally supportive intimate personal relationship
- Division of household tasks
- Whether the beneficiary of alimony has established an enforceable aptitude of support from another person within the meaning of subsection h. of R.S. 25:1-5
- All other relevant indication
It is important to understand that under the amended law, cohabitation does not require the couple to live together full-time.
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