Cohabitation and alimony in divorce cases

By astracom
In August 10, 2014
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Let’s say, after a divorce, you are paying periodic alimony, and your ex-spouse begins cohabitating with a significant other. It’s natural to feel that the alimony award should terminate, or at least be modified downward. When people keep house together, they tend to function as one economic unit. But whether it will be possible to terminate or modify the alimony award depends on the terms of the original separation agreement and/or judgment.

If the judgment provides that the alimony award is non-modifiable, then, in most cases, “game over”. Except in unusual circumstances, courts tend to enforce such agreements or orders strictly, even if there are harsh results.

If the agreement or judgment is silent on this point, then Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-86(b) comes into play. That statute allows the payor to bring a motion to terminate or modify an award of periodic alimony upon a showing that the party receiving the periodic alimony is living with another person and “the living arrangements cause such a change of circumstances as to alter the financial needs of that party.”

This is a fact-intensive inquiry, and a financial change may be difficult to prove, especially if the ex contends that the household expenses are kept separate. One way to avoid such difficulty is to obtain, if possible, at the time of judgment, an agreement that the alimony obligation will automatically cease upon the commencement of the cohabitation.

Connecticut courts have held that such provisions are self-executing, and override the language of the statute. It is still desirable to bring a motion to formally terminate the alimony, to avoid a possible contempt order. But the termination of the alimony award will be retroactive to the start of the cohabitation, and the mere fact of cohabitation is easier to prove than its financial consequences.

For more about alimony in general, please visit my website at http://www.ljct-lawyers.com/Practice-Areas/Divorce/Alimony-Explained. To consult with an Avon-Hartford divorce lawyer, please call 860-299-6263.

Hartford area bankruptcy attorney and divorce lawyer Edward P. Jurkiewicz has over 20 years of experience representing clients. Our firm represents debtors and creditors and handles both relatively simple divorces and bankruptcies and more complex litigation matters. With this depth of experience, our firm is able to anticipate and prepare for any potential issues that could arise in your bankruptcy, divorce or family matter.

CONTACT US TODAY AT 860-299-6263

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