My name is Edward Weinstein and I have been practicing divorce and family law here in New Jersey for nearly 20 years. This is one of a series of blogs that my firm has prepared to inform the public of the many changes that have occurred this year to alimony laws in our state.
Today, we shall discuss significant clarifications and amendments to one of the more complex areas of New Jersey’s alimony statute: what happens when the person receiving alimony is cohabiting with a new significant other. Let’s explore.
When an individual is paying alimony and then discovers that the ex-spouse is now involved in a very serious, intimate relationship, my phone rings immediately. This is because no one who is paying alimony wants their ex-spouse using the money they receive to support their new significant other. On the other hand, it is unjust if the new significant other may be now supporting their ex-spouse and therefore no longer needs the alimony they are receiving.
Before the new amendments, our state’s divorce statutes and case law has always allowed a person paying alimony to apply to a New Jersey Family Court in order to have their payments either terminated or reduced based upon cohabitation. However, it was always a very hard row to hoe. Under the old law, the person paying alimony had to prove three things in order to demonstrate cohabitation:
1. That an intimate relationship exists with duties and privileges commonly associated with a married couple;
2. That the relationship is stable and enduring; and …
3. Actual cohabitation in the same residence.
Now, under the new law (which clarifies the old law in this regard), a New Jersey Family Judge must now consider eight factors in order to determine whether or not cohabitation exists. These include:
* Commingling of finances (such as joint bank accounts or credit cards);
* Sharing living expenses (such as mortgage or rent payments and other day-to day or monthly expenses);
* That the couple’s relationship is well known in the their social and family circles (an example would be spending all or most holidays together).
A number of other factors, such as how long has the relationship been going on, must be proven to the Court that would demonstrate a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship. However, this biggest change under the new alimony law is that cohabitation can still be found even if the couple does not live together on a full time basis.
A vital reason that this is such a momentous change in the law is that it eliminates the games that I have been watching folks play for years. A typical example I have seen over the years as a New Jersey divorce attorney is when the new boyfriend or girlfriend “leases” an apartment that they only stay at a few days per week (or even per month) so they may continue to receive the alimony payments just in case the payor of alimony returns to the Superior Court of New Jersey for a modification or termination of alimony.
The new law, by stating that a party can be deemed cohabiting even though they are not living together, on a full time basis, has eliminated this fraud.
It is important to note that the new alimony law is not retroactive as of September 10, 2014. However, moving forward, this is the new state of an area of the law that, in my legal opinion, needed clarification for divorce attorneys, family judges and people who are either paying or receiving alimony and this does the trick.
As my office shall continue to the Family Courts to see how they evaluate and apply this new alimony law in New Jersey, please do not ever hesitate to call, email, or follow my blog and or my YouTube channel for continual updates.