Under New Jersey law, one of the circumstances which can suspend or terminate the obligation to pay alimony is if your former spouse cohabits with another person. However, if your ex-spouse is trying to hide his/her relationship, you need to be careful in how you react. You should take several steps to help you determine the facts and protect your rights:
- Do not confront your ex-spouse. Whether or not your suspicions are true, your ex will deny it. In addition, if he/she is cohabiting, you have now alerted your ex and his/her partner to your observations and they will take steps to hide their activities.
- Build your case. Instead of confronting your former spouse, make a plan and start gathering information. An essential part of your plan should include hiring an experienced matrimonial attorney who can guide you through the process of building a case. In addition to information that is readily available on the internet such as public website postings (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), there may be extremely helpful information obtainable through the use of private investigators. Every case is fact specific, so while no single fact may prove cohabitation, a pattern of behavior may provide sufficient evidence.
- Understand the law. An attorney can help you understand whether your ex-spouse’s actions fall within the legal definition of cohabitation. In New Jersey, cohabitation is defined as “… a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.” The law sets forth several factors that a Court must consider in determining whether cohabitation is occurring:
(1) Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities;
(2) Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses;
(3) Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle;
(4) Living together, the frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship;
(5) Sharing household chores;
(6) Whether the recipient of alimony has received an enforceable promise of support from another person within the meaning of subsection h. of R.S.25:1-5; and
(7) All other relevant evidence.
4.Be patient. Gathering sufficient proof of all of the above may take time and may mean paying alimony longer than you would like. Nevertheless, taking the time to build your case will provide the best chance of success at Court and hopefully suspend or eliminate your alimony obligation. In the long run, patience and planning will save you money. If you suspect your former spouse is cohabiting, we would be happy to meet with you. Contact us for a consultation.