What happens to alimony if the alimony recipient lives with a significant other after the divorce? This is one the more common questions we at Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie, LLC hear from our clients, as cohabitation after divorce is becoming more common in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Typically, alimony ends upon the remarriage of the alimony recipient. What happens if the alimony recipient decides to live with a significant other rather than get remarried is a more complicated issue.
Top divorce lawyers in Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan, and Westport know that, unless the parties agree otherwise or a judge orders otherwise as part of the final orders in a divorce case, alimony orders are modifiable based on the cohabitation of the alimony recipient. Those paying alimony need to know what their rights are in the event that an ex-spouse is cohabiting. Likewise, those receiving alimony need to be aware that living with a partner after the divorce could put their alimony award at risk.
In Connecticut, we have what divorce lawyers refer to as a “cohabitation statute,” though the statute itself does not use the word “cohabitation.” Connecticut General Statutes Section 46b-86(b) says:
In an action for divorce, dissolution of marriage, legal separation or annulment brought by a spouse, in which a final judgment has been entered providing for the payment of periodic alimony by one party to the other spouse, the Superior Court may, in its discretion and upon notice and hearing, modify such judgment and suspend, reduce or terminate the payment of periodic alimony upon a showing that the party receiving the periodic alimony is living with another person under circumstances which the court finds should result in the modification, suspension, reduction or termination of alimony because the living arrangements cause such a change of circumstances as to alter the financial needs of that party. In the event that a final judgment incorporates a provision of an agreement in which the parties agree to circumstances, other than as provided in this subsection, under which alimony will be modified, including suspension, reduction, or termination of alimony, the court shall enforce the provision of such agreement and enter orders in accordance therewith.
This statute was originally enacted in order to address situations in which a person receiving alimony chooses to live with another person rather than remarry so as not to affect his or her alimony.
For the alimony payor, the first step in seeking a modification based on cohabitation is obtaining proof that that the alimony recipient actually is cohabiting. If the alimony recipient is simply staying one or two nights per week at a significant other’s residence, or vice versa, it likely will not be enough for the alimony payor to obtain relief. In some cases, whether or not the alimony recipient is cohabiting is not easy to determine, as the alimony recipient may maintain a separate residence but in essence “live” with a significant other. Some litigants choose to hire a private investigator in order to try to determine how many nights an ex-spouse spends at another residence (or how many nights a significant other spends at the ex-spouse’s residence) before deciding whether or not to proceed on a cohabitation case.
The law in Connecticut regarding cohabitation makes clear that proving that an alimony recipient is living with another person is not the only thing that an alimony payor must prove in order to have his or her alimony obligation modified. Even if it is clear that an alimony recipient is living with someone else, it may not be as clear as to whether or not alimony should be modified. Under Connecticut law, the “living together with another person” must cause a change in the alimony recipient’s circumstances by altering the alimony recipient’s financial needs. In a case in which the alimony recipient is not receiving any financial payment from a person with whom he or she is living and in which the alimony recipient is actually financially supporting that other person, one could argue that his or her financial needs have not been altered by the cohabitation in such a way as to affect alimony.
If an alimony payor is successful in proving that 1) the ex-spouse is living with another person, and 2) the living with another person alters the ex-spouse’s financial needs, it does not mean that alimony will be terminated. A judge has the option under the law to terminate alimony in such a case, but the judge also has the discretion to suspend or reduce alimony.
Modification of alimony based on cohabitation is rarely straightforward and is highly fact specific. Whether a person is an alimony recipient or an alimony payor, consultation with an attorney is helpful in determining how the law applies to the facts of the case. At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie, LLC, we settle and litigate cases involving modification of alimony based on cohabitation by marshaling the necessary evidence and presenting the strongest arguments in favor of our client’s position. More on Alimony