Prior to the Alimony Reform Act of 2014, divorced spouses in New Jersey had to prove that their exes were sharing a common residence with a new partner to terminate an alimony agreement. Now, ex-spouses can be considered “cohabiting” with a partner even if they aren’t living together full-time under the same roof.
While the 2014 law change brought some former spouses relief, the improvement was more modest than expected.
A case in Morris County in late January raised the issue of proving cohabitation, in which a former husband was looking to terminate his alimony obligations.
Jeralyn Lawrence, the NJ Bar Association’s former family law chairwoman, said the changes to cohabitation requirements were made to remedy a growing problem.
“People are in a marital relationship, for all intents and purposes, but don’t get married and keep their separate homes, just so one of them can keep getting an alimony payment,” said Lawrence.
New Alimony Laws in New Jersey State
The new law removed permanent alimony and included the “presumption” that alimony payments would end when the paying party retires. Ex-spouses would still need to obtain a court order to end alimony payments at retirement. In cases of high income retirement, the paying party may have to continue payments.
Under the new law, the term “permanent alimony” has been replaced with “open duration alimony.” The new term indicates that alimony may be terminated or amended if the paying party can prove a change in financial circumstances.
The new law now defines cohabitation as “a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship” equivalent of a marriage.
Judges may consider eight factors when determining if an ex-spouse is cohabiting: shared finances, shared household chores, shared responsibility of living expenses, the length of the relationship, additional relevant evidence, frequency of contact and living together, relationship recognition among family and friends, and promise of support from the partner.
Family Lawyers in New Jersey consultations
Family law attorneys say the cohabitation changes make it easier for parties paying alimony to readdress the case and challenge the order. They agree the new law clarifies vague parts of the original law.
In the Morris County case, an ex-husband is seeking to terminate alimony payments to his ex-wife, who has a boyfriend.
The ex-wife’s attorney has argued that the alimony payments should continue, as she and her partner are not living together, only see each other three times a week, do not share household chores and do not intermingle finances.
If the former wife’s argument holds true, experts say her former husband will likely be forced to continue paying alimony.
A case from 2015 may help the ex-husband’s case. A court ruled that a former wife was cohabiting with a boyfriend of whom she saw two days a week and vacationed with.
The judge in that case said the ex-wife was in a “committed relationship tantamount to a marriage.”
The new law will likely be tested in court, although many family law attorneys say they know of no cases filed under the new rules that have been decided. Alimony cases tend to be slower, as judges must first decide if there’s enough evidence to move forward with a full hearing.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm focusing exclusively on men’s rights during a divorce. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has experience working with securing alimony for men. You can read more on this topic by visiting our Alimony Blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.