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Cohabitation is a term used as it relates to the payment and receipt of alimony. A payor spouse may seek to a modification and/or termination of alimony if he or she believes their recipient spouse is cohabitation with a paramour. There are many circumstances when a payor spouse may seek a modification of an alimony award to reduce or terminate his or her obligation to pay alimony. In order for a change in alimony to occur, there must be a proven change of circumstances. When a former spouse moves in with a new partner it does not alone suffice as a significant change in circumstances to qualify for a change in alimony.

Cohabitation that justifies a modification of alimony must be what the Courts call a relationship “tantamount to marriage.” A “common residence” or “mere romantic casual or social relation¬ship” is insufficient. Evidence of cohabitation must include intertwined finances, shared living expenses, participation in household chores and recognition of the relationship by the couple’s friends and family just to name a few.

A change in economic circumstances must also accompany the cohabitation in order for an alimony modification to be considered. The payee spouse must receive a “substantial economic benefit” as a result of the cohabitation. In making determinations as to the effects of cohabitation on the financial situation of a payee spouse, New Jersey courts consider not only the actual financial assistance resulting from the new relationship, but also may weigh other enhancements to the dependent spouse’s standard of living that directly result from cohabitation, as well as the duration of the cohabitation and its similarities to a marital relationship.

Most of the time parties will include in their Marital Settlement Agreements a clause that either allows for termination and/or mediation of alimony based on cohabitation. Some agreements even go as far to say that after for example 60 days of cohabitation alimony shall cease. These clauses have been effectively enforced in the New Jersey courts for alimony termination regardless of a payee spouse’s change in economic circumstances.