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Can cohabitation affect a couple’s alimony order?

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2023 | Spousal Support & Alimony

Alimony payments are often a point of contention during a New Jersey divorce. The spouse requesting alimony may worry about their ability to support themselves after the divorce, while the spouse paying alimony wants to minimize their ongoing financial responsibility as much as possible, in most cases.

Eventually, either through litigation or direct negotiation, spouses will reach a settlement or will at least have a court order clarifying how much spousal support one will pay the other and how long those payments will last. Typically, the spouse paying alimony will need to abide by the former until the end of the arrangement. However, in certain, limited scenarios, it may be possible to end alimony payments before the original ordered end date. Is cohabitation with the new romantic partner potentially a reason to revisit a New Jersey alimony order?

The options depend on who starts cohabitating

If the spouse paying support has a new romantic partner move in with them, meaning they have higher household expenses, they might hope that the courts would reduce or even end their alimony because they now have financial responsibility for another person.

However, an increase in household expenses for the person paying alimony will very rarely have an impact on their obligations to their former spouse. Even if cohabitation with a new romantic partner will drastically increase their personal expenses, the courts are unlikely to reduce their financial responsibilities because of that change.

If the spouse receiving alimony has begun cohabitating with a new partner, that change in their financial circumstances could potentially influence how much alimony they receive and may even trigger the end of alimony payments. Cohabitation, much like remarriage, can potentially drastically alter someone’s right to continue receiving alimony from a former spouse.

A court order is necessary to make a change

Just because one spouse knows that the other has moved in with a new romantic partner does not mean that they can immediately stop sending alimony payments. They could end up subject to an enforcement effort if they prematurely stop fulfilling their obligations.

The spouse who is paying support will typically need to request a modification hearing in court to reduce or terminate their alimony requirements. Pursuing a formal modification to end or lower alimony payments can benefit those who are trying to rebuild financially after a New Jersey divorce and who have legitimate reasons to seek such adjustments.