Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New Jersey alimony case rejecting Husband’s motion to terminate ongoing alimony payments based on his Wife’s alleged cohabitation. Ultimately, the court concluded that Husband failed to present enough evidence to show that Wife and her new partner were cohabitating under the terms of the law.
The Facts of the Case
In the case, Charles v. Charles, Superior Court Docket A-2412-20 (May 5, 2022), Husband and Wife were married for 24 years before filing for divorce. The parties’ marriage settlement agreement provided Husband would pay Wife alimony payments, but “wife’s cohabitation with an unrelated adult in a relationship tantamount to marriage or civil union shall be considered a change of circumstances allowing the husband to request a review of his alimony obligation.”
Years later, Husband filed a motion to terminate alimony payments, citing Wife’s cohabitation with her current partner. In support of his claim, Husband submitted an affidavit stating that Wife and her partner got engaged in 2014 and, in 2015, Wife moved to her own home, which was located near her partner’s. Husband also noted that Wife’s new partner was frequently over at Wife’s home, was involved in the children’s lives, and was invited to “family” events.
Wife denied she was cohabitating, noting that she maintained a separate residence and only got engaged in 2019.
The court denied Husband’s motion to terminate alimony payments, finding that the evidence he presented in support of his request was insufficient to prove Wife’s cohabitation. Under New Jersey case law, cohabitation is “an intimate relationship in which the couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage.” Additionally, cohabitation is only found when the parties have a close and enduring relationship, which is stable and permanent. However, there is no requirement that a couple lives together to cohabitate.
When determining whether parties are cohabitating, courts consider shared finances, shared living responsibilities, sharing a residence, and whether the couple holds themselves out to friends and family as a couple.
Here, however, the court determined that Husband’s evidence wasn’t quite enough to prove that wife and her new partner were cohabitating. The court noted that there was no evidence Wife lived with her partner, no photographs of the couple attending events together, and no testimony from a private investigator detailing the “marriage-like” activities Wife and her new partner engaged in.
Are You in the Middle of a New Jersey Alimony Dispute?
If you are paying alimony following a divorce, and you believe you have grounds to request a modification, you need to work with a New Jersey divorce attorney who is committed to meticulously gathering all evidence prior to involving the court or even beginning negotiations. Accuracy and completeness are critical. With over a decade of experience handling all types of alimony cases, Scully Family Law is prepared to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding assets and all sources of income and knowing how to effectively use this compelling evidence.
Claire Scully is a Freehold family law attorney representing clients throughout New Jersey and New York in a variety of family matters, including divorce, alimony, child support, and restraining orders. Our firm provides every client with custom-tailored services and undivided attention, including 24/7 availability by cell phone. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call us today at 743-462-1122. You can also reach us online through our convenient contact form.