In New Jersey, either spouse can ask the court to order the other spouse to pay alimony during a divorce. While a spouse can ask for alimony, the court has discretion about whether to order it and will consider multiple factors before agreeing to do so. Once a court issues an alimony order, it can order alimony to be paid for a set duration, for rehabilitative purposes, for reimbursement, or an open duration.
Most people know that an order of alimony can be terminated when the receiving spouse remarries. However, they might not realize that alimony can be suspended or terminated by the court when the recipient spouse is cohabiting with someone else. Here's some information you should understand about the effect of living with someone on alimony while you are getting divorced or after an alimony order has already been issued from a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony involves court-ordered payments from one spouse to the other and can be ordered by judges in New Jersey under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. Courts might order alimony in cases in which there is a large gap between the incomes of the divorcing spouses. For example, if one spouse remained at home to take care of child-rearing and housekeeping duties while the other spouse worked, the employed spouse might be ordered to pay alimony to the other spouse to allow him or her some time to become financially self-supporting.
Types of Alimony in New Jersey
Courts can order the following types of alimony in New Jersey:
- Limited duration alimony - Alimony that can be ordered for a set period but can not be ordered for a period lasting longer than the length of the marriage
- Rehabilitative alimony - Alimony that might be ordered to provide a spouse with time to get training or education to gain the skills needed to enter the workforce
- Reimbursement alimony - Alimony that might be ordered to reimburse a spouse who contributed to the other spouse's education, training, or career and gave up their own opportunities
- Open-duration alimony - Alimony that might be ordered with no set end date
Most alimony orders are limited in scope and are designed to help a lower-earning spouse acquire training or education and/or are limited to no longer than the length of a marriage. Open-duration alimony is typically only awarded in cases in which the marriage lasted at least 20 years and will continue until there is a change in circumstances.
Factors Courts Consider When Deciding Whether to Order Alimony
New Jersey judges consider the following factors when deciding whether to order alimony:
- The financial need of the requesting spouse and the other spouse's ability to pay alimony
- How long the marriage lasted
- Both spouses' health and age
- The couple's standard of living during the marriage and whether the requesting spouse can maintain it following the divorce
- The employability, skills, education, and earnings capacity of each spouse
- Length of time the requesting spouse has been out of the job market
- The responsibilities each spouse has for raising their children
- how long it would take and how much it would cost for the requesting spouse to receive enough training or education to become financially independent
- Each spouse's contributions to the marriage
- How the property will be divided
- Whether either spouse has investment income
- How the alimony award will be treated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- The amount and length of pendente lite support the higher-earning spouse has paid
- Other relevant factors
Courts can weigh factors that are more relevant to a given case more heavily than others.
Cohabitation and Alimony
When one spouse is cohabiting with another person, alimony can be suspended or terminated by the court under N.J.S.A. 2A: 34-23(n). Cohabitation is defined as a supportive relationship between two people involving the same privileges and duties normally associated with civil unions or marriage.
If the paying spouse challenges the continuation of alimony based on the recipient spouse's cohabitation with someone else, the court will consider several factors to determine whether cohabitation is occurring and whether to suspend or end the alimony order.
Factors Courts Consider to Determine Cohabitation
Courts consider the following factors to determine whether cohabitation is occurring:
- Whether the spouse is living with someone else
- Whether the spouse and the other party share living expenses
- Wehther the spouse and the other person have intermingled their finances
- How often the spouse and the other person are in contact with each other
- Whether the spouse and the other person share household duties
- How long the relationship has lasted
- Whether the couple's friends and family recognize their relationship
- Whether the spouse's new partner promised to support him or her
- Other evidence
A court can find that a spouse is cohabiting with someone else even when they do not live with each other full-time.
Types of Evidence to Show Cohabitation
If you are ordered to pay alimony and believe your former spouse is cohabiting with someone, you might be able to challenge the alimony order. You will need to present evidence to the court that your former spouse is cohabiting, however. It won't be sufficient to show that your ex-spouse is simply in a new relationship.
The following types of evidence might help to prove cohabitation:
- Social media posts about the couple living together
- Videos or photographs showing the couple living together
- Public records showing that property and vehicles are jointly titled in both names
- Postal address change showing a change of residence
- Statements showing joint checking or credit card accounts
- Witness statements about the couple's relationship
- Evidence showing where the couple's vehicles are parked each night
A divorce attorney in Essex County at the Ziegler Law Group can work with an investigator and use the formal discovery process to gather evidence of cohabitation.
What if the Spouse is Cohabiting Before the Divorce is Final?
Alimony can only be requested while a divorce is pending. An ex-spouse can't return to the court following a divorce to ask for alimony for the first time. If one spouse asks for an award of alimony and begins cohabiting with a new partner before the divorce is final, the other spouse can present evidence to the court showing cohabitation to challenge the alimony request.
Talk to an NJ Divorce Attorney at the Zielger Law Group
If you believe that alimony might be an issue in your pending divorce, or you have already been ordered to pay alimony and have since learned that your spouse is cohabiting with someone else, you should reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group. We can help with all aspects of divorce, including alimony requests, modifications, and terminations. Call us today for a consultation by calling 973-878-4373.
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