Many divorce judgments require one former spouse to pay alimony to the other former spouse. Alimony is also known as “spousal support” and is designed to help the recipient maintain a similar standard of living as they did during the marriage. There are many different forms–and lengths–of alimony. In some cases, alimony may simply be paid in a single lump sum, while other judgments require monthly payments for a set number of years. Refer to our prior blog post from January 2019 titled, “What is alimony and how much am I entitled to?”
Certain life events can prematurely terminate an ongoing alimony obligation. For example, if either the payor or the recipient dies, then alimony is normally terminated. This occurs automatically with the need for a separate court order.
Another scenario is the remarriage of the former spouse receiving alimony. Unless the parties have a written agreement stating otherwise, the remarriage of the recipient terminates the other spouse’s obligation to continue making alimony payments.
Basically, let’s say you are receiving monthly alimony payments from your former spouse. You later decide to remarry another person. You are legally obligated to notify your ex of the remarriage, thus terminating their obligation to continue paying alimony. If you fail to inform your ex and continue receiving alimony, a court can order you to pay that money back.
As noted above, this is simply a default rule in California. When negotiating a marital settlement agreement, the parties can decide to waive this rule, thus allowing alimony payments to continue even in the event of remarriage. But absent such an agreement, alimony must terminate upon the recipient spouse’s remarriage.
And in case you were wondering, the payor spouse’s remarriage has no automatic legal impact on their continuing alimony obligations.
What About “Cohabitation”?
But what if you are paying alimony to an ex and they start living with someone else but do not get remarried? In this scenario, known as cohabitation, a California judge has the discretion to reduce or terminate alimony payments. It is not automatic, however, as with a remarriage. Instead, the law creates a “rebuttable presumption” that the recipient’s cohabitation demonstrates a reduced need for ongoing financial support. The recipient can still introduce evidence to rebut this presumption. And as noted above, the parties may negotiate an agreement to continue support even in the event of cohabitation.
So what exactly is considered “cohabitation”? It does not simply mean that your ex now lives with a roommate. Nor does it count if your spouse is dating someone and spends a couple nights per week sleeping at their new boyfriend or girlfriend’s place. Instead, your ex needs to be living with someone most of the time and be in an intimate relationship with them.
Speak with a Campbell, California, Divorce Attorney Today
If you have questions or concerns about your ongoing obligation to pay–or receive–alimony, it is important to obtain qualified legal advice. If you need to speak with a Campbell spousal support lawyer, contact Hepner & Pagan, LLP, today to schedule a consultation.