Divorce & Family Law in Connecticut

Divorce & Family Law Connecticut - Dori Ellen Feltman Attorney at Law

Cohabitation – Will Alimony End?

What is Connecticut’s cohabitation law?

Conn. General Statutes §46b-86(b), the so-called “cohabitation statute”, was enacted by the legislature to correct the injustice of making a party pay alimony when his or her ex-spouse is cohabitating with another person, without marrying, for the purpose of preventing the loss of the alimony support order. The statute does not use the word “cohabitation” or limit the application of the statute to a romantic relationship.  Rather, the legislature imposes two requirements that the alimony payor must prove in order to modify, suspend or terminate the alimony obligation.  First, the payor must show that the alimony recipient is “living with another person”.  Second, the payor must show that such “living arrangements cause such a change of circumstances so as to alter the financial needs of the parties”.    The statue requires an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the alimony recipient’s actions should result in a change or termination of the support order.

How do you prove cohabitation?

What constitutes proof that the alimony recipient is “living with another person”?  There are some obvious ways to prove that a boyfriend or girlfriend has moved into the alimony recipient’s residence, such as a change in postal address or driver’s license.   Less obvious ways include checking if the boyfriend or girlfriend has “posted” his or her new address on social media or inquiring as to whether the couple shares a medical or automobile insurance plan.  Other evidence may include owning property together or being joint obligors on the mortgage to a residence.

What constitutes proof that the alimony recipient’s financial needs have changed as a result of living together with his or her girlfriend?   Obvious ways to show the financial impact of cohabitation includes contributing to the household expenses such as rent, mortgage or utilities.   Less obvious ways include showing that the couple shares other sorts of expenses such as groceries, housekeeping or even vacation expenses.

What do I do if cohabitation is at issue?

If you suspect that your former spouse is cohabitating, or if you are questioning whether your current living arrangement may jeopardize your alimony order, the first step is to check the precise wording of your separation agreement or divorce judgment to determine if “cohabitation” is more clearly defined, as the language in your separation agreement or divorce judgment will ultimately govern your rights and obligations in this regard.  For instance, your separation agreement may state that upon proving cohabitation, your alimony will automatically terminate, rather than be subject to modification or termination as set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. §46b-86(b).  The second step is to call an experienced attorney.  Your attorney will advise you on how cohabitation may impact the alimony order, what kind of evidence will be necessary, and the cost of pursuing a modification in Court.  Irrespective of the nature of the cohabitation, it will likely be necessary to file a motion with the Court and have the alimony order modified or terminated.