Articles Posted in Cohabitation

Over the course of my career as a New Jersey divorce lawyer, the 2014 amendments to the alimony laws in our state were the most revolutionary I have ever seen. Specifically, changes were made to New Jersey alimony laws as it pertains to how a New Jersey Family Court shall evaluate cases involving cohabitation of the recipient of the alimony. For a number of reasons, I believe the law was modernized with respect to cohabitation. This attorney breaks down a recent case that illuminates many aspects of this complex area of New Jersey divorce law.

In J.S. v. J.M., the parties were married for twenty years. The parties divorced in 2010 by a final judgment of divorce. Incorporated in the parties’ final judgment of divorce was a property settlement agreement, which laid out the terms of the parties’ divorce, including alimony. The parties agreed in the property settlement agreement that the husband would pay the wife alimony each month until the husband reached normal retirement age. The agreement also stated that the husband’s alimony obligation would end if the wife cohabitated with an unrelated man for a period of thirty or more days.

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As a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, I have always found this area of NJ Family Law to be one of the most unfair, specifically to the person paying alimony. Most recently, a new case came down that disturbs me as, in my opinion, has made the law of “cohabitation” in New Jersey even more unjust. This blog shall explore the law as it presently stands, this brand new case and how the pending New Jersey Alimony Reform may make the law more fair in this area of the law.

Under present New Jersey Divorce Law, cohabitation occurs (in a court of law) is when the couple bears the “character of a family unit as a relatively permanent household.” Furthermore, the relationship must show “stability, permanency and mutual interdependence.” One of the lead cases further states that when the couple is in an intimate relationship wherein they undertake duties and roles that are commonly known to be like those in a marriage, cohabitation exists under NJ Divorce Law. Examples given in this case include but are not limited to:

1. Living together;

Thumbnail image for photo_5894_20080509.jpgAs a New Jersey Divorce and Family lawyer, I have represented numerous clients on each side of the following scenario: “A divorced woman has started living with her boyfriend.” Clients often start off a initial consultation with one of two questions:

How do I prove my ex-spouse is cohabitating so I can stop paying alimony?
If I cohabitate could I lose my alimony?

In the past few weeks several news articles have been published regarding a cohabitation case recently decided by the New Jersey State Appellate Court.

In this case, the plaintiff, Eric Gould, argued that the alimony payments he was making to his ex-wife should be modified or terminated because she was cohabitating with her boyfriend. To his point, the divorce agreement did include a line “”In the event of Wife’s cohabitation, the Husband may, at his option, make all appropriate applications to the Court to have alimony terminated in accordance with the then existing law of this State.”

However he had to prove that she was actually cohabitating. To do so, he hired a private investigator, peeked in his ex-wife’s mail box, and presented the findings to the court. He alleged that the boyfriend kept a substantial amount of clothing at her house, vacationed with her and the children, helped with homework and even took on the responsibility for certain chores. He claimed the boyfriend had received mail to the house, and on six observed nights, the boyfriend was at the woman’s home for a portion of each one and stayed for three full nights.

While the ex-wife acknowledged the romantic relationship, she refuted the claim that they were cohabitating claiming the clothing was minimal, and while yes, he did help with homework and chores, he has his own established residence, does not contribute to the her household financially, and they do not have a marital type relationship.

So what happened?
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