2. If you are living with someone else, accepting (or taking) spousal support is, in essence, double-dipping.
3. If you are living with someone else, while receiving spousal support, your former spouse is also supporting that other person.
4. If you are living with someone else, you are likely in a social and financial interdependent relationship akin to a marriage.
5. In many instances, if you are living with someone else, you may be violating a Marital Settlement Agreement or may be in breach of a final judgment.
Alimony reform is on the rise, and there’s simply no avoiding it. Nor should there be. In a modern society, where the rules and roles have changed dramatically since the days when women didn’t work outside of the home and didn’t have the right to vote, and there’s been a significant shift towards rebalancing economic equality, traditional notions of what spousal support is, when it is required and when it should be modified, must be redressed. One ripe area for change is the circumstance of cohabitation, its effect on spousal support and the challenges surrounding the ability to prove it. Since spousal support is based, at least in part, on the need of one party for financial support and the ability of the other party to pay, logic dictates that if the recipient spouse has a decreased need for financial support, than the payor spouse should pay less. Therefore, if the recipient spouse is cohabiting with someone, the resulting financial need is decreased. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, as with so many things in family law, it’s complicated.
You might think I’m anti-alimony. I am not.
You might think I’m anti-woman or an ultra, man-hating feminist. I am neither.
What I am, quite simply, is pro-fair. I am pro:
• Terminating spousal support in the face of the recipient spouse being in a supportive relationship;
• abolishing permanent alimony, except under very specific circumstances whereby the recipient spouse is unable to self-support;
• evaluating past earnings and earning capacity to enforce imputed income to an intentionally underemployed person;
• using vocational resources to determine a person’s ability to work, including considerations for amount of time out of the workforce, age and stage in life, and
• awarding retroactive repayment of alimony, when it has been proven that a recipient spouse has breached the cohabitation clause of a marital settlement agreement and has intentionally deceived former spouse in an effort to keep the alimony.
I am pro- evaluating spousal support using criteria based on a modern society, and not an antiquated view of women as chattel or unable to be independent. I’m pro-incentivizing and motivating divorcees to be self-sufficient. I’m pro encouraging forming new relationships that don’t have to remain hidden in an effort to scam the continuation of alimony. Most of all, I’m pro- blended families, which cannot exist successfully in high-conflict relationships.
According to Alan Frisher, President of Family Law Reform,”This [cohabitation] is a very challenging area of the law as current law outlines eleven (11) factors that may need to be proven to allow for a judge to determine that there is indeed a “supportive relationship.” The problem is that, while these factors may effectively define a “supportive relationship,” judges have total discretion as to whether they will decide that proof is required of 1, 2 or all 11 of those factors before they will determine that cohabitation really exists. That type of discretion makes it virtually impossible to effectively prove cohabitation, especially when the cohabiting individuals can manipulate the times they live with one another.” While proving a cohabiting relationship might be difficult, in a modern society where your electronic footprint is monitored throughout the day, it is certainly not impossible. Use of technologies such as social media, GPS, cell tower location data, and other surveillance techniques allow parties to level the playing field. Some of the subjective factors considered by the courts include (1) Whether the couple put themselves out to the community as married; (2) the length of time of cohabitation at a permanent abode; (3) the degree to which their income or assets have been combined, showing that their financial affairs are interdependent; (4) how much support either party receives from the other; (5) whether they have made a shared purchase of real estate or personal property; and (6) whether they have supported the child or children of the other.
Cohabitation isn’t just about physically living under the same roof. It’s about the social and financial intertwined interdependencies that are created when a couple starts living together. It’s about sharing responsibilities such as mowing the lawn, watching the kids, walking the dog or doing household chores. All of these things have a value, though not always quantified in dollars. Cohabitation isn’t measured solely on who pays the mortgage or rent, or even on whether electric bills are shared. The continuous overnight presence in a home of a person, who is consuming utilities (water, electric, gas) is a significant step towards demonstrating elements of cohabitation. And if, when considered by a reasonable person, could only conclude that a cohabiting relationship is more likely than not, then alimony must be modified or terminated.