How Cohabitation Affects Alimony
Alimony awards are granted in Florida divorces where one spouse has a need for financial assistance and the other has the ability to pay. These awards take the form of lump sum or periodic (usually monthly) payments and are made for a set duration of time. It is, however, possible to reduce or terminate these payments before the official deadline in certain situations, including when the recipient gets remarried or moves in with a romantic partner.
Cohabitations as a Basis for Modifying Alimony
Under Florida law, a former spouse who is making regular alimony payments can attempt to modify that award if the recipient:
- Enters into a supportive relationship with someone; and
- Starts living with that person.
The burden of proving that such a supportive relationship exists rests with the person who is both paying alimony and attempting to reduce or terminate the award. To do so, the petitioner must prove that the recipient is engaged in a supportive relationship by a preponderance of the evidence. Basically, they must be able to establish that it is more likely than not that the recipient is being financially supported by a new romantic partner, with whom he or she lives. This evidence could take a variety of forms, including a deposition of the new partner, photographs, and bank statements.
Proving a Supportive Relationship
Florida courts are directed to take specific factors into account when determining whether an existing alimony award should be terminated because of a supportive relationship and cohabitation with a new partner, including:
- The extent to which the recipient and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple (e.g. using the same last name or using a common mailing address;
- How long the recipient has lived with the other person;
- The extent to which the recipient and his or her partner have pooled their assets or income;
- The extent to which the recipient and the other person have supported each other;
- Whether the parties have jointly contributed to the purchase of real or personal property; and
- Whether the recipient and other person have provided support to the other party’s children.
If, after applying these factors, a court finds that a supportive relationship does exist between the alimony recipient and another person, then it can either reduce the alimony obligation or even terminate it entirely.
A Specific Agreement
To avoid the complex process of establishing a supportive relationship (and the extent of that support), divorcing parties can enter into an agreement at the time of divorce, in which they can contract for the specific terms upon which alimony will reduce or end. A couple could, for instance, state that an agreed-upon amount of alimony will terminate in the event of a recipient’s cohabitation with a new partner. This type of contractual requirement can save the parties a lot of time and energy down the road.
Call Our Office or Reach Out to Us Online Today
To discuss modifying an alimony award due to a former spouse’s cohabitation, contact the Clearwater alimony lawyers at Cairns Law today by calling 727-683-1472.