Alimony Reform and Cohabitation
By Peter Van Aulen, Esq.
On September 10, 2014, Governor Christie signed into law NJ alimony reform. Said reform provided guidelines for courts to follow when determining if cohabitation has occurred. Consequently, the new statute states that alimony may be “suspended or terminated” if the payee cohabits with another person. Please note that the new statute does not state that alimony could be modified upon cohabitation, as allowed by case law in some circumstances before the new statute’s enactment. Therefore it seems the court only has two options if it finds cohabitation under the statue, which are to suspend or terminate alimony and not to modify the same.
The statute defines cohabitation as a “mutually supportive intimate personal relationship” whereas the parties have taken on “duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage,” but do not necessarily maintain a single common home. When determining whether cohabitation is occurring under the statute, the court shall consider the following factors:
- When there are intertwined finances, for instance as joint bank accounts and other joint assets or joint liabilities;
- The joint responsibility or sharing of living expenses;
- The acknowledgement of the relationship by the couple’s social and family circle;
- Whether the couple reside together, length of the relationship, the regularity of contact, “and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship”;
- The alleged couple’s sharing of chores;
- Whether the payee of alimony received an enforceable assurance of support from another person;
- All other relevant evidence.
The court, in determining if cohabitation is happening and deciding whether to suspend or terminate alimony, shall consider the length of the relationship. It is important to note that the statute states that a court may not make a finding that a payee is not cohabitating with another solely on the basis that or she is not residing with said person;
I recommend that you read my other article on cohabitation “ALIMONY MODIFICATION DUE TO COHABITATION IN NEW JERSEY” located on this website on the “FAMILY LAW ARTICLE” page. Said article was written before the governor signed NJ alimony reform into law. However, I believe that some of the cases cited in said article will still be found relevant by the courts.
Peter Van Aulen has over 20 years as a NJ divorce and family law attorney. He has represented clients in many different types of divorce and family law cases and has successfully handled many post divorce issues. He is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney. Mr. Van Aulen is only one out of 161 lawyers in the state of New Jersey with said distinction. Mr. Van Aulen has also written over 30 articles on divorce and family law.
Mr. Van Aulen offers a consultation. Cohabitation cases are very fact sensitive, and they are often not clear cut. Further, whether you are the payer or the payee spouse, there is usually a lot riding on if a court finds cohabitation. If cohabitation is found, for the payer spouse it could be the end of a financial obligation and for the payee spouse it could be the end of needed financial support. It is crucial you get good advice and representation. Therefore, if you are facing cohabitation issues and have questions concerning NJ alimony reform, call Peter Van Aulen today at 201-845-7400 to make an appointment. His staff is ready to help you.