Supportive relationships and cohabitation are alimony-related issues that even lawyers may struggle to understand. Under Florida law, supportive relationships and cohabitation make it possible for ex-spouses who pay alimony to seek modification or termination of the alimony obligation. Automatic termination of alimony – despite changes in Florida’s divorce laws in 2005 – is still triggered only by death or remarriage. Florida courts acknowledge that other “substantial changes in circumstances,” including supportive relationships and cohabitation, may or may not warrant a modification or termination of alimony. If you need to have an alimony order modified because of a supportive relationship, cohabitation, or some other substantial change in circumstances, call Tina Lewert to modify your existing spousal support order, and speak to an experienced Boca Raton cohabitation lawyer.
COHABITATION AND SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS
In the eyes of the law, a supportive relationship is when an ex-spouse who is receiving alimony payments begins to live with another person that he or she is not related to. If your ex-spouse moves in with a boyfriend, girlfriend or even just a friend, a supportive relationship may exist if these two parties share expenses to pay for their living arrangement.
A supportive relationship does not exist if your ex-spouse chooses to move in with a blood relative or someone related to them through marriage. Therefore, even if your ex-spouse begins to live with his or her parents and is financially supported by the parents, this is not a supportive relationship. A supportive relationship also does not exist if your ex-spouse moves in with another person but the two parties keep their finances completely separated. In this situation, the ex-spouse is not receiving any financial assistance from the other person, so no changes to alimony will be awarded.
If you find out that your ex-spouse is in a supportive relationship, you cannot stop paying alimony until the court allows it. The supportive relationship has to be proven to a judge in court before the alimony is cut off or modified in any way. If you are the one paying alimony, then you are the one required to provide evidence to the court that proves the existence of a supportive relationship. The ex-spouse has no responsibility to disprove any evidence brought against him or her in court.
The judge must find that the relationship is proven “by a preponderance of the evidence,” meaning that it is more likely than not that a supportive relationship does exist. In order to prove the supportive relationship, a judge may look at a number of different factors including:
- How the two parties that are living together carry themselves. If the two parties are acting as a married couple, the court may determine it is a supportive relationship. The court will look to see if the two parties are using the same last name, referring to each other as husband or wife, or engaging in any other similar behaviors.
- The time that the two parties have lived together. The longer that the two parties have shared a residence, the more likely it is that the court will believe it is a supportive relationship. If the ex-spouse is only spending nights or weekends at the new residence, this will most likely not qualify as a supportive relationship.
- The pooling of assets. If the court determines that the two parties are sharing assets, this could be a supportive relationship. Evidence such as joint bank accounts, paying each other’s bills, sharing groceries, or helping to support each other’s children will all prove that the two parties are sharing money and living in a supportive relationship.
- What services they provide to each other. If the two people are performing valuable services to each other, the court may determine that they are in a supportive relationship. For example, if one person is babysitting the other’s child during work hours, this could be evidence of the existence of a supportive relationship.
For more information on what evidence will be considered in supportive relationship and cohabitation cases, contact an experienced Boca Raton cohabitation lawyer as soon as possible.
KNOWLEDGE, SKILL, AND EXPERIENCE
Tina L. Lewert, Esquire, is an experienced Boca Raton cohabitation lawyer and also a Florida Board Certified Specialist in Marital and Family Law. Ms. Lewert can help determine what your best options are for increasing, decreasing, or terminating the alimony you pay or receive. Tina Lewert is familiar with all aspects of Florida’s alimony laws including the newer concepts of supportive relationships and cohabitation as circumstances that may justify the modification of alimony. To be successful in an alimony modification case based on cohabitation or a “supportive relationship,” the “obligor” (the person paying the alimony) must prove in court that a supportive relationship exists between the ex-spouse and another person. Once the existence of a supportive relationship is proven, Florida law states that the court may – or may not – reduce or terminate alimony. This is because people in a supportive relationship or cohabitation receive similar benefits to those who are in a marriage. These benefits include support of a partner, assistance with paying for expenses and an increase in income. Because alimony is automatically terminated when an ex-spouse remarries, it should always be re-examined in the court if an ex-spouse is in a supportive relationship that is so similar to a marriage.
Generally, any adjustment to alimony will depend on the extent to which the ex-spouse’s new partner contributes to their living expenses and reduces the former spouse’s alimony needs. A detailed examination of the former spouse’s finances, as well as the new partner’s, may be conducted.
GET THE LEGAL HELP YOU NEED
Simply because your ex-spouse moves in with someone, this does not mean that you will be successful in your effort to end or reduce alimony payments. Get the legal help you need. At Lewert Law, we can explain your options, protect your rights, and help you take the appropriate legal steps. We invite you to schedule an appointment by phone at 561-220-0123 or by e-mail through this website to discuss your needs, options, and legal rights as quickly as possible.