22 Oct The Relationship Between Alimony Payments and Cohabitation
The state of Florida will often award alimony payments to a financially dependent spouse after a divorce. When the spouse who is receiving the alimony payments has a change in financial situation, it can affect the alimony payments. One factor that can affect these payments is entering into a cohabitation arrangement with a significant other. When this type of relationship is in place, it is important for the party who is paying alimony to know that the alimony payments may be affected.
Overview of Alimony in Florida
There are several reasons why alimony can be granted. It is often granted to provide a cushion for a financially dependent spouse until he or she can be self-supporting. It can also be granted for a court-specified length of time. Lastly, it can be granted as a means of compensation for the recipient’s contributions during the marriage.
The Impact of Remarriage on Alimony
In the state of Florida, when a person who is receiving periodic alimony payments gets remarried, the alimony payments usually cease and do not require a court order. However, if payments are required to be paid in a one lump sum or in the form of property, the party paying the alimony, or obligor, must go to court to get an order before the payment can cease.
Legal Definition of Cohabitation
When one party decides to cohabitate with someone else, it may affect the alimony payments that are being received. The Florida courts consider cohabitation to mean any living arrangement that results in the spouse being assisted financially by someone with whom they are not related. In the eyes of the Florida court system, a cohabitative relationship need not be romantic in nature.
The Impact of Cohabitation on Alimony
Florida courts are willing to modify alimony payments if a payee’s financial situation has changed. Before the court will make a significant change such as reducing or eliminating alimony payments, a request must be made. The court will take the following factors into consideration before determining if a true cohabitative relationship exists.
* Whether the people who are living together claim to be married, use the same last name, or use the same mailing address
* The length of time the supported spouse has lived with the other person
* How much financial assistance the cohabitant and supported spouse provide for each other
* Whether the two cohabitants work together or if one works for the other
* Whether the cohabitants have purchased property together
* Any other factor that indicates that the cohabitant and supported spouse have a financial relationship
It is the legal responsibility of the obligor to prove that the ex-spouse who is receiving payments, the obligee, is indeed in a living arrangement that is considered to be supportive in nature by producing evidence to the court. The obligee is not required to disprove the relationship. It is the obligation of the obligor’s legal team to prove there is a supportive relationship “by a preponderance of the evidence”, which means it needs to be shown to be mostly true or likely.
Possible Evidence for the Obligor
Since the burden of proof is placed on the obligor, it is his or her responsibility to present reasonable evidence of a supportive relationship to the Florida court. Some ways the obligor can accomplish this include the following:
* Prove that the obligee and the other person are living like married people by showing a shared last name, using a common address, or referring to the other person as “husband” or “wife”.
* Prove that the obligee and other person have lived together for a significant length of time. The longer they have lived together, the more it will appear the relationship is supportive in nature.
* Prove that the obligee and other person are financially obligated to each other through the presence of a joint bank account, jointly paying bills, shared grocery expenses, or otherwise sharing household expenses.
* Prove that the obligee and other person have pooled resources to purchase real estate or personal property.
* Prove there is an expressed agreement on how personal property will be shared.
* Prove the obligee and other person will perform “valuable services” for each other.
* Prove the obligee and other person have worked together to increase the value of the real estate or personal property.
* Prove the obligee and other person have helped each other with their children, financially or otherwise.
Ultimately, when a spouse has been awarded alimony, it is meant to help the obligee maintain a certain standard of living. It is not meant to be a punishment to the obligor. So, when the obligee’s financial status has changed due to a change in living status, it may no longer be necessary to continue receiving alimony payments. If you are currently paying alimony to an ex-spouse in Florida and think you have grounds to have the amount reduced or eliminated, do not try to solve the issue on your own, contact a qualified lawyer right away.