When a couple separates, it is common for one or both parties to move on as if they were no longer married. You may even find yourself quickly engaged in a long-term relationship. However, if alimony has been awarded to you during your separation, be aware that cohabitation will automatically terminate your rights to these payments. So, before you jump into a new relationship, you should speak to an attorney to determine the best steps to take to prevent these payments from ceasing.
Grounds for Terminating Alimony in North Carolina
Alimony may be modified by either spouse in instances of substantial life changes or unique circumstances. Once a request for modification is filed, both spouses must appear at the hearing that is set by the court. The spouse in need of modification or termination of alimony must then prove that one or both spouses’ financial circumstances have changed and warrant a modification in alimony.
In order to receive termination of alimony, you should obtain necessary evidence of life changes, such as your spouse remarrying, becoming deceased, or cohabitation. A judge may not grant termination in other changed circumstances.
North Carolina statute § 50-16.9 describes the termination of alimony:
Periodic alimony awards end if your dependent spouse remarries in North Carolina and will automatically terminate on the date of the remarriage. In this case, a court order for terminating alimony does not apply.
Alimony Expiration Date
In some cases, alimony orders come with periodic payments over a set amount of time rather than in a lump sum payment. For instance, this may include prenuptial agreements set up for one spouse who would pay alimony but only for a ten-year period. If this was approved by the court, the alimony obligation would automatically terminate on the agreed-upon date.
Spouse Becomes Deceased
Termination of alimony is automatically applied in the case of either the dependent or supporting spouses’ passing.
When a dependent spouse cohabitates with another person, alimony awards are terminated. “Cohabitation” is defined as two adults living together continually in a relationship akin to marriage. Alternatively, if a dependent spouse is having relations with another person, and they occasionally stay overnight at their residence, but they maintain their own places of residence, that does not qualify as cohabitation. However, if you believe your ex-spouse is cohabiting while continuing to receive alimony, you will need to provide evidence of the cohabitation.
The following types of evidence may prove cohabitation:
- Photos, videos, or other tangible evidence
- Objective written documentation that they have a marriage-type relationship
- Witness statements and testimony
To build a strategic case surrounding cohabitation in statutory termination of alimony, speak with an experienced divorce lawyer at King Law for skilled legal guidance. Our skilled family law attorneys will work with you at every step of the process to ensure your personal interests and rights are protected. This may include conducting an extensive investigation, obtaining persuasive evidence on your behalf, and aggressively advocating your claim.
What Constitutes Cohabitation?
Cohabitation refers to two parties living together continuously and habitually. Although this can be hard to prove, there are signs that a person is living with someone. For example, if you share the utility bills, buy a car together, or a significant other shares the lease or mortgage with you, that is a clear sign that you are cohabitating.
Also, if you maintain your own residence and your significant other has their own residence, you can still be accused of cohabitation. In this case, you may be facing a negative outcome in court if your spouse finds:
- Proof that you are spending numerous overnights with your new significant other
- You have a key to your new significant other’s residence
- You share the same mailing address
- You have personal property at your new significant other’s residence
Many scenarios related to cohabitation can be considered in court. For example, if your ex finds out that you have been cohabitating for the past year but just now proves it, the court could order you to repay the alimony that was compensated during that time. Even though you may have a separation agreement that does not speak about cohabitation as a terminating factor, and even though a court order may be silent on it, alimony will be terminated regardless.
Voluntary Termination of Alimony
North Carolina does not have any set guidelines for determining the duration of alimony payments. Instead, a judge will examine the details of each case and make a decision based on the information available. Typically, a former spouse will continue to receive spousal support until they remarry or cohabitate with a new partner. However, it is also possible to end alimony payments through voluntary termination.
There are two ways a couple can go about voluntarily terminating alimony payments:
- Both parties agree that alimony payments will cease after a certain amount of time or event, such as the lower-earning spouse finding full-time work.
- At any time after the divorce, both parties agree that alimony payments are no longer necessary and voluntarily stop sending payments.
Separating from a partner can be a long and arduous process, and all the procedures involved can be overwhelming. With so much at risk, you should have an ally who can guide you through the process and ensure your best interests are always considered. An attorney with extensive family law experience would be a valuable advocate during alimony discussions.
Get Legal Guidance About Alimony From a Reliable Divorce Attorney
If you are in need of alimony modification or suspect a need for statutory termination of alimony due to your dependent spouse’s cohabitation with another person, speak with an experienced family law attorney at King Law today. We are well-versed in North Carolina law regarding the complex matters surrounding the termination of alimony and understand how to protect your personal rights and interests with compassion and diligence.
Contact our North and South Carolina offices, and we will be glad to go over your options and possible outcomes for your case. Call our toll-free number at (888) 748-5464 (KING) or request a consultation by completing our contact form.