In the United States, cohabitation laws for alimony vary from state to state. In some areas, simply living with a new partner is enough to automatically terminate any alimony payments one is receiving. In other states, the matter needs to be taken before a judge, who needs to determine if there has been a sufficient change in circumstances to warrant a reduction in alimony payments.
Examples of Cohabitation Laws for Alimony
Here are some examples of different ways this issue is interpreted:
Cohabitation and Alimony in Alabama
If you are receiving alimony payment in Alabama and are living with someone of the opposite sex without being married, you could have your alimony payments terminated. Simply having an intimate relationship or allowing that person to spend the night is not considered grounds for the Court to order that the payments cease, however.
Evidence must be provided that the person receiving alimony has a partner living with them. The Court would consider the following as being proof of cohabitation:
- The person is having mail delivered to the residence.
- Clothing and possessions are being stored there.
- The individual's vehicle is parked at the residence on a regular basis.
- The person spends his or her time when not working at that location and eats meals there.
Cohabitation and Alimony in Maryland
The law in Maryland regarding alimony is a bit different from in our previous example. The relevant part of the Family Law Article of the Maryland Code reads as follows:§11-108. Termination of alimony.
Unless the parties agree otherwise, alimony terminates:
- on the death of either party;
- on the marriage of the recipient; or
- if the court finds that termination is necessary to avoid a harsh and inequitable result.
A person making alimony payments would have to go to court to demonstrate to a judge that his or her former spouse's live-in relationship with a new partner constitutes a "harsh and inequitable result" if they want the payments to cease. A clause can be added to a marital settlement agreement stating that any alimony payments will cease if the recipient is cohabiting with a new partner. As in the previous example, the payor will need to prove that the alimony recipient is living with a new partner before they can stop making payments.
Cohabitation and Alimony When Recipient is in a Same-Sex Relationships
The issue of how to deal with a person receiving alimony payments who then enters into a domestic partnership with a person of the same sex is a relatively new one for the courts to try to interpret. In states where this option is available, it conveys some of the same rights and responsibilities given to married couples. This living arrangement is similar to being married, but not the same thing as entering into a legal marriage.
It has been argued that if alimony payments are to cease on the recipient's remarriage but the recipient has not remarried in the strictest sense of the law, then the payments should continue. This argument has been used successfully in Oregon, while the Virginia Appellate Court came to the opposite conclusion. The Virginia Court found that entering into a domestic partnership was "analogous" to remarriage and ordered that the alimony payments be terminated.
When divorce decrees or marital settlement agreements are being drafted, the issue of alimony being terminated when the recipient lives with another person should included. If the decree or agreement specifies cohabitation with a member of the opposite sex only, then the door is left open for the recipient to enter into a live-in relationship with a partner of the same gender and continue receiving payments. This issue should be dealt with, even if it seems unlikely that the alimony recipient will choose to enter into a romantic relationship with a person of the same sex.
Seeking Expert Advice
Cohabitation laws for alimony can be complicated and are constantly evolving over time. If you have questions or concerns about these issues, do consult with an attorney who can give you advice for your specific situation.