Can Living with Someone Jeopardize Your Alimony?
Divorce is a shock to a person’s finances, and one way some spouses with limited resources bridge the transition into singlehood is through spousal support or alimony. Alimony is, by and large, a temporary, but essential, form of financial assistance that many former spouses need until education and/or more secure employment is obtained. Alimony is intended to provide the recipient with the level of support he/she would have enjoyed if still married, with the expectation that other available sources of income are not available. Most forms of alimony are modifiable and/or subject to termination if circumstances change, but one situation that is most likely to convince a court that alimony is no longer necessary is cohabitation by the recipient. Since the point of alimony is to provide missing financial support, living with a new intimate partner, who is presumably contributing to the household expenses, would seem to eliminate this need. Proving the existence of a supportive relationship is not necessarily easy, though, and judges will expect to see more than rumors or circumstantial evidence a former spouse is living with someone new. Both parties have a lot at stake with the issue of alimony, and a discussion of the standard to a modify or terminate an alimony award, as well as how courts evaluate claims of a new supportive relationship, will follow below.
Standard to Modify or Terminate Alimony
Alimony awards are based upon a spouse’s need for support, and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Thus, when unanticipated circumstances change the financial abilities of either party, a court may order a modification or termination of the award. Typically, changes in employment, remarriage, death of a former spouse, or living with someone in a supportive relationship are the principal reasons a court would consider making a change, including a reduction in amount or complete termination of the support. Of these reasons, supportive relationships are the hardest to prove, and the claim most likely to produce intense litigation.
Supportive Relationship Claims
If the party paying alimony suspects the recipient is living with a new partner and receiving financial assistance, he/she has the right to file a petition asking for modification and/or termination of the award. However, it will be the responsibility of the party paying alimony to prove the relationships exists, and not the person getting support. Consequently, the payor will need to gather evidence and prove by a preponderance (more probable than not the allegation is true) that a supportive relationship exists. This effort often requires hiring a private investigator to collect information that a family law attorney can use as evidence, which is an extra expense that will need to be factored into making this claim. Examples of common sources of evidence include financial information, witness statements, and social media posts. When courts assess whether a supportive relationship exists, they are looking at the nature and extent of the relationship using the following factors:
- Whether the couple held themselves out as married by using the same last name, address, or other behavior that indicates a permanent supportive relationship;
- How much the couple has pooled financial resources;
- Whether the couple jointly purchased real estate or personal property;
- Whether the couple has an express or implied agreement about property sharing and support; and
- How much the coupled has supported one another, both mutually and individually, among other related factors.
In essence, the court will assess whether the new relationship has functionally replaced the financial support provided during the marriage so that alimony is no longer required. The facts and circumstances will vary in each case, but an experienced family law attorney will know how to use this information to secure a favorable outcome.
Get Legal Advice
If you have questions about alimony or another post-divorce judgment issue, talk to a knowledgeable family law attorney to see what your options are. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group understand the complications former spouses can encounter with post-divorce support awards, and can help you get a fair result. Contact our Orlando law firm at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.