When a couple separates, it is common for one or both of the parties to move on as if they were no longer married. You may 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.
Alimony can be terminated in three instances: death, remarriage of the defendant spouse, or cohabitation. If a spouse dies, that is a clear and cut case. Alimony simply stops. If the person who is receiving alimony gets remarried, the payments are terminated. In cohabitation, however, proof of this can be difficult to prove. 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. Something to remember also is that if you maintain your own residence, and your significant other has their own residence, you can still be accused of cohabitation. In this case, if your spouse finds proof that you are spending numerous overnights with your new significant other, have a key to their residence, you have personal property at their residence, etc. you may be facing a negative outcome in court.
There are many scenarios that 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.
So, while it is understandable that you would want to move on and find someone new, the act of cohabitation is something that can play a huge role in your situation. The bottom line is, you need to consult with an attorney to make sure you are protected. Contact our North and South Carolina offices, and 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 online by completing a request form.
We also recommend that you read Grounds for Alimony Termination.