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Cohabitation can impact spousal support payments

When Connecticut residents divorce, any spousal support that is awarded is generally a certain amount per month for a specified period of time. A change in circumstances of either party may provide grounds for reopening the issue, and cohabitation is one change in circumstance that could be used to reduce or terminate the original award.

One thing that complicates this issue is that there is no precise definition of cohabitation in many states. Some marital settlement agreements clearly define what will be construed as this type of relationship, but in the absence of an agreement there are a number of factors that may lead a court to determine that alimony should be modified or terminated because the recipient is cohabiting. These factors could include the opening of a joint bank account or the sharing of household or parenting duties.

Even if a spouse has a strong suspicion that the other is in this type of relationship, it can be very difficult and costly to prove. First, the recipient may be less than forthcoming about the new living situation and may go so far as to hide the car or clothing of their new partner. The fees of a private investigator can be significant and in some instances more costly than the remaining amount of spousal support payments.

Issues regarding spousal support do not necessarily end when the final divorce decree is entered. A change in the financial circumstances of either party may require a modification of the order. In that regard, a showing that the recipient is now in a relationship akin to a new marriage may be sufficient.

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

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