Can Your Ex’s Post-Divorce Cohabitation Get You Off the Hook for Alimony in California?
Must I Continue Alimony Payments if My Ex Moves in with a Significant Other?
When you divorced, you may have been ordered to pay some form of spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony. Typically, the court order builds in an end date to support payments unless the court granted your ex-spouse permanent spousal support. The court will only order permanent spousal support if the marriage was very long, (longer than 10 years in California) and the support recipient has little hope of becoming self-supporting.
In California, your obligation to pay spousal support ends if your ex-spouse remarries. But today, many people live together instead of getting married, or they may live together for awhile before taking the leap into marriage. So, how does cohabitation affect your obligation to continue making court-ordered spousal support payments?
If a California divorce court ordered you to pay spousal support, and your ex moves in with a new significant other, that alone is not enough to relieve you of your alimony obligations by itself. You will need to file a motion with the family court to modify the support order. You will also need to show there is a substantial change in your ex’s financial circumstances in order to reduce or entirely stop your support payments. There is an exception if you and your ex signed a settlement agreement to the contrary.
California Family Code section 4323 (a) (1) says, “Except as otherwise agreed to by the parties in writing, there is a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of proof, of decreased need for spousal support if the supported party is cohabiting with a nonmarital partner. Upon a determination that circumstances have changed, the court may modify or terminate the spousal support…”
This means that your ex-spouse cohabitating with a partner – not just staying at their house a few nights a week- may be enough for the court to consider your motion to decrease alimony. If your ex’s financial fortunes have improved substantially due to the cohabitation, you may be off the hook for some or even all of your spousal support payments. But it’s not at all a slam-dunk.
How Can I Show a Change in Circumstances?
It’s not a walk in the park to show circumstances have changed to such a degree that a court will change a spousal support order. And you will have the burden of proof of making your case. Cohabitation is more uncertain than marriage after all. It can be ended in a day. Also, the financial rights of cohabitation are dramatically less than those of marriage.
Courts are reluctant to change a spousal support order, and they have a lot of leeway in their decisions. It may seem clear to you that your spouse’s finances have drastically improved, but a court may not agree, at least not to the extent they are willing to change their order.
A change in circumstances can apply to either or both parties when arguing for a decrease or halt to spousal support. If you lose your job or suffer a decrease in income, you can argue for a modification of your spousal support order. But you can also argue that due to financial gains enjoyed by with a new partner, your ex no longer needs your spousal support or at least not as much of it. Some of the factors your California divorce attorney will want to discuss with you are whether your think your ex has
- Joint bank accounts with the new partner
- A joint title to property with the new partner
- A joint rental agreement with the new partner
The formula for modifying spousal support is not cut and dried, so you will want to speak with an experienced California divorce lawyer at great depth about your specific situation.
Call Ghazi Law Group for a Consultation
Has your ex moved in with a new partner, so you feel you should pay less alimony or be freed of paying it all together? Or maybe you yourself have moved in with a new partner, and you are concerned your ex-spouse now wants to reduce your spousal support payments.
If you find yourself in either of these situations, contact the experienced California family law lawyers at Ghazi Law Group to schedule your consultation. Call us at (818) 839-6644 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are located in Sherman Oaks, California, close to Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City and other areas of Los Angeles County.
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