Cohabitation and spousal maintenance

Cohabitation and spousal maintenanceSpousal maintenance (f/k/a alimony) cases can be some of the most adversarial in divorce litigation. Where one party wants spousal maintenance, and the other does not desire to pay it, many cases end up going to trial.

If a party is ordered to pay it, many end up back in court on motions to terminate the maintenance or to modify it (to raise or lower it). The laws vary by state as it relates to spousal maintenance. Thus, it is critically important for a party to speak to an attorney who is licensed and competent to practice law in their state.

However, where one party is ordered to pay spousal maintenance, and they learn that their former spouse is cohabitating with another individual in a romantic relationship, many wrongly believe this is an automatic termination to their maintenance obligation. The reality is that this is generally not the case.

For a party to terminate their maintenance obligation, it is first important to carefully review the terms of the original divorce decree and the marital settlement and separation agreement (if there is one). Generally, the judgment and/or settlement documents will outline when maintenance terminates or can be modified.

Past that, even if cohabitation is referenced in the judgment or the settlement documents, or even where the a modifiable maintenance award does not specifically reference cohabitation, cohabitation generally is not an automatic termination of maintenance. The laws vary by state — and the facts can change the analysis.

But, in Missouri, for example, the cohabitation has to be a substitute for marriage for maintenance to terminate. This means that the parties will need to fully commingle their assets for the marriage to be considered a substitute. They might need to make each other beneficiaries in their wills, life insurance, policies, etc., for example. The cohabitation has to be permanent in nature as well.

Showing this is not necessarily an easy proposition for a party who desires to terminate maintenance. There are lots of good cases on this topic that many can read to help understand further, but the facts of the case are often the key.

If you are going through a spousal maintenance case where cohabitation is a key issue, Stange Law Firm, PC can help.  You can call us at 855-805-0595.


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