When people get a divorce, the most common wording within the divorce agreement is that alimony payments will stop if the spouse receiving them begins “cohabiting” with someone else.
Raleigh Divorce Agreements
When you think about it, the logic of this makes sense: a spouse will get divorced, start receiving alimony, and then move in with a lover who will support him or her. Then when push comes to shove, this isn’t really fair because the ex-spouse is then paying to support someone who is already being supported by someone else.
But the problem is that “cohabitation” isn’t always clear-cut. Sometimes it’s obvious that an ex-spouse has moved into someone else’s home and is being taken care of by them financially. But not always.
Cohabitation: A Real Life Example
Take a recent case from Delaware where a retired couple’s divorce agreement called for the husband, Joseph, to pay alimony to his ex-wife, Shannon. The agreement said that Joseph could stop paying alimony if Shannon started “cohabiting” as defined by state law. Under Delaware law, two people are cohabiting if they “regularly reside” together and hold themselves out as a couple.
At some point, Shannon became romantically involved with another retiree named Fletcher. Joseph hired a private investigator to tail Shannon and Fletcher to determine if they were living together.
The investigator discovered that they did spend an awful lot of time together – in fact, he saw Fletcher’s car at Shannon’s house on 25 out of 37 days. He also spotted Fletcher doing domestic chores for Shannon, including feeding her cat, taking out the trash, and doing yardwork. Also, he saw Fletcher using her garage code.
Are they Cohabiting?
But while Fletcher spent two to four nights a week at Shannon’s house, the couple had separate homes, and Fletcher didn’t keep any clothes or other personal property at Shannon’s. The couple also pursued different activities during the day.
Joseph went to court to have his alimony stopped on the grounds that Shannon was cohabiting with Fletcher. A judge denied the request, noting that Shannon and Fletcher had separate, independent houses.
But on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court sided with Joseph. It said it didn’t matter that Shannon and Fletcher owned separate homes and didn’t do everything together during the day. The couple were nevertheless cohabiting because they lived together “with some degree of continuity,” the court decided.
The meaning of “cohabitation” varies a lot from place to place and can apply differently from situation to situation. But if you have any questions about your own situation or that of a former spouse, we’d be happy to help you.
Contact The Law Corner Today: Raleigh Divorce Attorney
Family law attorneys in Wake County are often more interested in posturing than in actually resolving family law disputes. As a result, they often employ hard bargaining tactics which emphasize the differences in their positions rather than seeking a common ground for settlement. This technique often results in one of the parties filing a Complaint in court which commences litigation. The high cost and long delays associated with the Wake County Family Court System often make litigation an impractical method for resolving disputes. Parties increasingly find that they are spending more time and money to litigate than the cost to settle the matter. The increasing number of lawsuits filed each year is indicative of the unwillingness or inability of parties and their attorneys to effectively utilize negotiation to resolve disputes. It is not uncommon for the North Carolina attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, jury fees, court reporter fees and other related costs to exceed the amount in dispute. However, theRaleigh Divorce Lawyers at The Law Corner offer a practicable alternative: Mediation.
The Law Corner divorce attorneys in Raleigh can help explain the divorce process to you and help you with other divorce related issues, to include, but not limited to, the following:
Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO)
The Law Corner Attorneys help people all over Wake County to include the following areas: Knightdale, Wake Forest,Raleigh,Morrisville, Apex, Wendell,Zebulon, New Hope,Cary,Rolesville,Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, and Garner.