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The effect of cohabitation on alimony

Florida residents may find it interesting to learn that cohabitation of a recipient of spousal support with another person, may be grounds for having any monthly alimony modified. However, it is important to consult with a family law attorney on the factors that are taken into account to determine what is and is not cohabitation, and how any alimony payments are impacted.

In general, cohabitation means that a couple is living together predominantly in a marriage-like fashion with intermingled financial and social dependencies. From a family law perspective, the existence of cohabitation forces the court to re-evaluate whether the alimony-receiving spouse is in the sort of relationship such that the need for financial assistance from the payer-spouse is either reduced or entirely eliminated. It should be noted that the definition of cohabitation can be somewhat nebulous and ill-defined, except on rare occasions where lawyers have gone through the rigor of spelling out beforehand the specific definitions in a marital settlement agreement.

In most cases however, alimony payers often find themselves in the position of piecing together demonstrative evidence and hoping it will be sufficient to sway the court to rule in their favor. Understandably, the person with the alimony obligation should always expect that any allegations that the ex's new relationship can be categorized as cohabitation, and thus falls in violation of the terms of the divorce, will be met with absolute and utter denial.

Since proof of cohabitation is typically illustrated with evidence in the form of financial and social interdependence, the alimony payer will usually need to gather past bank statements and credit card bills. They may also need to furnish surveillance videos and perhaps photographs documenting certain activities. Sometimes testimony from witnesses can be used to establish relationships. This means that given the nature of the evidence that's required, the probability of a successful verdict in ones favor is wholly dependent on the quality and the veracity of the evidence and what that evidence reveals.

Furthermore, it is important to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it is worth pursuing the matter legally. The costs involved in litigating a cohabitation case may outweigh the benefit. It may help those wondering what their options are to consider speaking to a family law attorney.

Source: Huffington Post, "How to Evaluate if Cohabitation Has Placed Alimony at Risk," Diane Danois, March 21, 2014

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