Cohabitation Clauses and Termination of Alimony
Any divorce litigant looks forward to the day when the case is over and he or she can move on and start to rebuild his or her life. Luckily, it is becoming more and more common for parties to settle their divorce out of court. This provides the parties with the opportunity to settle the case quickly and with the ability to build in to the divorce decree specific provisions that they can custom-make to fit their particular circumstances. One particular type of clause that parties will often include in divorce settlement is a cohabitation clause. A cohabitation clause provides that when the party receiving alimony starts to share a residence with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, then the paying spouse will no longer have to make alimony payments or alimony will be modified. Even if there is no such provision in the settlement agreement, the law provides that cohabitation is a change in circumstances to terminate or suspend alimony.
Since 2014 when the new alimony legislation was passed, the courts have had to weigh in on several issues dealing with alimony and the new legislation. One such case, styled Quinn v. Quinn, dealt with the issue of alimony and how a cohabitation clause contained in the parties’ divorce agreement should be put into effect. In that case, the parties were divorced, the husband agreed to pay alimony to the wife, and the parties included a cohabitation agreement in their agreement. The agreement provided that the husband’s obligation to pay alimony would terminate automatically when the wife started to live with a new partner. After the divorce, the wife resided with a new partner from 2008 to 2010. The trial court and appellate court both found that the wife was indeed cohabitating with the new boyfriend. Even though he never sold his own home, the court found that he was receiving mail and paying bills at the wife’s residence. Moreover, the wife and her boyfriend described their own relationship as a partnership when discussing it with friends and family. The lower courts determined that the alimony should be suspended between 2008 and 2010, but after 2010 should recommence as the wife was no longer residing with the new boyfriend. The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed with this assessment. It held that there was nothing in the cohabitation clause that permitted the lower courts to reinitiate the husband’s support obligation after the wife’s new relationship fell apart. The Court determined that the clause needed to be enforced as written in the divorce agreement, and as it clearly stated that the obligation terminated upon cohabitation, the husband’s obligation terminated as of 2008.
If you are facing a case dealing with alimony either during or after your divorce, you need an experienced attorney to help you with the process. We have extensive experience in achieving our client’s alimony goals. at 732-529-6937 to make an appointment to talk about your case.