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Courts Rule That Cohabitation Can Terminate Alimony Obligation

Two different courts have recently ruled that cohabitation after a divorce can terminate any obligation to pay alimony. A court in New Jersey found that a woman who lived in an intimate relationship with another man after her divorce had violated the terms of her divorce decree. A Virginia court ruled that same-sex cohabitation in a relationship “analogous to a marriage” fell under the state’s law allowing termination of alimony or spousal support.

In the New Jersey case, the parties had entered into a property settlement agreement that required the husband to pay alimony, but mandated termination if his ex-wife remarried or lived with another person in a committed relationship. Though the ex-wife denied that she had cohabitated with a man, the court found sufficient evidence that she had. Finding that she had voluntarily and knowingly entered into the property settlement, and had been represented by counsel, the court essentially applied the law of contract, finding that she had breached the terms of the agreement, rendering it void.

In the Virginia case, the court considered whether an intimate and committed same-sex cohabitation me the provisions of Section 20-109 of the Virginia Code, which allows a court to terminate spousal support if the recipient has “been habitually cohabitating with another person in a relationship analogous to marriage for one year or more.” In this dispute, the husband had agreed to pay alimony for eight years, but argued that his obligation terminated when his ex-wife entered into a relationship with another woman. His ex-wife openly admitted her relationship with the woman and said they planned to get married. She argued, though, that the statute only applied to cohabitation with partners of the opposite sex. The court disagreed and terminated alimony.

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