Alimony after divorce is often necessary. It provides financial support for those who need it after leaving a marriage in which they were dependent, at least in part, on the earnings of the other spouse. However, numerous factors can contribute to when alimony is paid and how long it lasts, including cohabitation or living with another person in a close and personal relationship.

If you are considering alimony, changes to alimony, or concerns related to payments, contact our New Jersey divorce lawyers at Jersey Coast Family Law for immediate help.

What Is Cohabitation in New Jersey?

Ultimately, alimony may be terminated if cohabitation occurs. Cohabitation is defined as a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship. More specifically, it involves any situation in which the couple living together has the same duties and privileges as those would be expected in a civil union or marriage. It is not possible to actually formalize cohabitation, but that does not mean that an ex may be required to continue to pay alimony if cohabitation is occurring.

What Is Palimony?

Palimony is similar to alimony in that it involves the payment of financial support from one party to another after a relationship ends, even if that relationship was not recognized as a valid marriage. Palimony allows the court to require that one party in that relationship provide financial support to the other after the relationship ends if there was an established relationship and financial dependency within that relationship.

For example, if a couple lived together for several years, with one providing most of the financial support for the other party, and that relationship ends, the financially dependent person may ask the court for palimony. This would require the other party to continue to provide support for the other party.

It Is Not Just Living Together

New Jersey laws go further than some others in that they do not require a couple to actually live together to prove that cohabitation is occurring, nor that alimony is not necessary.

In 2014, a law was passed that makes it easier for the spouse paying alimony to assert that cohabitation is occurring and, as such, that the ex no longer needs to pay alimony. Instead of looking at just how the couple is living together or apart, the court must consider other factors. The court may make decisions on alimony related to factors such as:

  • If the couple shares joint bank accounts or credit cards
  • If the couple is sharing living expenses, such as splitting rent or utility payments
  • Is the couple recognized as a couple in social circles or with family?
  • Does the couple share household chores?
  • How often is there contact between the two people?
  • Is there evidence of romantic involvement?

All of these factors must be considered to prove that cohabitation is occurring and to determine how that impacts alimony being paid by the previous ex.

Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony

Alimony is meant to provide financial support to one member of a relationship after it ends if that person was financially dependent on the other during that relationship. Cohabitation changes that.

If the spouse is now living with or cohabitating with another person, that may lead to the previously established alimony being modified or even terminated. Consider how this may occur.

A couple ends their marriage of 10 years. During those 10 years, the breadwinner in the relationship brought in most of the income, while the other party was the stay-at-home parent. After the relationship ends, the breadwinner is required under the law to pay the stay-at-home parent alimony for the next 5 years. However, the stay-at-home parent begins a relationship with another party in which cohabitation occurs. The court may rule the breadwinner no longer must continue to pay alimony as a result.

In these situations, the court may state that it is suspending alimony, which could be temporary, or terminate it, which is a permanent change. It is up to the court to make the decision about when and how to move forward. If the court believes that the stay-at-home parent is now living with another party or is dependent on someone else, they may terminate that alimony altogether.

Protecting Yourself: Prenuptial Agreements and Alimony

Cohabitation aside, one way that individuals entering a relationship can protect themselves is with a prenuptial agreement. It allows for you to address alimony beforehand, including when and if it is paid, and when it may not be paid out at all.

Most people entering into a relationship do not want to consider what could happen if that relationship were to end. It may seem like an impossible scenario. However, as a New Jersey divorce lawyer, we can tell you that even the most perfect of relationships can end over time, and when that happens, it can lead to the requirement to pay alimony.

With a prenuptial agreement, it is possible to put in place alimony expectations and limitations. That includes implementing rules related to cohabitation. For example, the prenuptial may state that both parties agree to the alimony as long as the dependent party does not enter into a relationship with another party.

When to Consult a New Jersey Family Law Attorney

In any situation, a New Jersey family lawyer can provide insight into cohabitation, palimony, and prenup agreements, providing you with all of the information and guidance you need to make decisions about your financial well-being and future. If you are facing a change in your financial situation or you are paying alimony that you believe you no longer should pay, reach out to our legal team to get help and guidance. If you are entering into a new relationship and are worried about losing your alimony, we can help you explore solutions at that time.

Contact Jersey Coast Family Law today at 732-361-4718 to discuss your specific situation and to learn more about the implications of cohabitation on alimony in your relationship. Contact our New Jersey family law attorneys now for more information and hands-on support. We have offices in Toms River and Red Bank serving clients throughout New Jersey. 

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