Not so fast. Terminating alimony is a very fact sensitive inquiry and requires, often, the filing a motion before a family court judge, and potentially a period of discovery before a plenary hearing is scheduled. Terminating alimony based upon a dating relationship is, often, not enough to terminate one’s alimony obligation. Instead, a payor would need to provide that the person receiving the support is “cohabiting” with their significant other.
Depending on the term of your Marital Settlement Agreement, you and your ex may have bargained for a specific triggering event or condition to terminate alimony, or may have left the event open to interpretation depending on the law at the time a request for termination is made. It is important when thinking of terminating your alimony obligation that you review the specifics of your settlement agreement for these key details.
The New Jersey Legislature has also weighed in on what will and will not constitute cohabitation for settlement agreements entered into after 2014 when the law on this issue changed. If you settled your case and entered into an agreement prior to 2014, your case falls under a different set of “rules” as it were and you should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your options therein.
The language of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n) for alimony termination due to cohabitation specifically provides that alimony can be suspended or terminated if the payee cohabits with another person. It further defines cohabitation as “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.”
The statute outlines seven factors that courts must consider when determining whether cohabitation is occurring. These are:
(1) Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities;
(2) Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses;
(3) Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle;
(4) Living together, the frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship;
(5) Sharing household chores;
(6) Whether the recipient of alimony has received an enforceable promise of support from another person within the meaning of subsection h. of R.S.25:1-5; and
(7) All other relevant evidence.
The statute, lastly, directs “in evaluating whether cohabitation is occurring and whether alimony should be suspended or terminated, the court shall also consider the length of the relationship. A court may not find an absence of cohabitation solely on grounds that the couple does not live together on a full-time basis.”
Determining whether or not your ex-spouse is cohabiting with their significant other is a fact sensitive inquiry. This means that the Court must weigh the above seven factors to determine whether or not cohabitation is, in fact, occurring. Just because your ex-spouse has a significant other does not mean that they are cohabiting under the law. Speak with an experienced family law attorney on this issue prior to filing a motion with the court to terminate your alimony payments. Please contact our offices to schedule a consultation to discuss your options for terminating alimony today.