Earlier this year, a case involving the concept of “cohabitation” after divorce was brought before the superior court of Morris and Sussex counties. The case involves William and Yvonne Kloehn, who divorced in 2007 after 22 years of marriage. Yvonne began dating a man in 2008, with whom she is now involved in a serious relationship. While she has every right to find a new partner, William is arguing that Yvonne and boyfriend are engaged in a state of cohabitation, therefore he should no longer have to pay alimony.
Yvonne has argued that she and her boyfriend have never shared a residence during their entire relationship. In fact, both her and her boyfriend have separate residences in their own name, and do not appear be sharing any household bills or responsibilities. However, the concept of cohabitation means a lot more than just living together. Within the field of family law, cohabitation includes behaviors that are typically exhibited by married couples. This means that ordinary acts such as grocery shopping together, sharing vehicles, and caring for each other's pets could possibly be viewed as evidence of cohabitation.
Further clarification is given in the New Jersey Alimony Reform Act, which established 8 factors for determining cases of cohabitation:
- Joint bank accounts or other holdings that show an intermingling of finances.
- Shared living expenses.
- Public recognition of the relationship within the couple's social circles.
- Indicators of an intimate and mutually supportive relationship, such as living together or seeing each other on a regular basis.
- Shared household chores.
- Whether the recipient is receiving any other source of court-ordered alimony.
- The length of the relationship.
- Additional evidence relevant to the case.
You may have noticed that most of these guidelines are fairly typical of most serious relationships. Detractors of the Alimony Reform Act argue that such guidelines essentially force a spouse to choose between finding love, or receiving much needed financial support. On the other hand, alimony is supposed to be used by the recipient to take care of their own personal needs. The courts do have to examine whether an individual is benefitting from his or her partner's alimony payments. In addition, the courts must determine if the receiving spouse is being financially supported by her new partner, in which case the alimony may be reduced or terminated.
While the legal definition of cohabitation is a current hot topic within the field of family law, there are other aspects of alimony that you should discuss with an experienced divorce attorney. Even before the divorce is finalized, you should be aware of the different types of alimony, which include pendente lite, temporary, limited duration, permanent, rehabilitative and reimbursement. You can receive one or a combination of these forms of alimony, but deciding on what's best for you in the long-run requires advice from a qualified attorney. To find out about your alimony rights and legal options, please schedule a free initial consultation with the divorce attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.