Will I Lose My Alimony If I Live With Another Person?
During the divorce process in Pennsylvania, a court can order one party to pay financial support to the other party. While the spouses are separated but no divorce case is actually pending, the court may award spousal support. Once a spouse files for divorce and the case is before the court, the judge may award temporary financial support known as alimony pendente lite. Finally, after a final divorce decree is entered and the parties are no longer married, the court may direct an ex-spouse to pay alimony to the other ex-spouse.
But alimony typically ends when the recipient either remarries or “cohabitates” with another person. Pennsylvania law expressly bars alimony in cases where the person seeking financial support “has entered into cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex who is not a member of the family of the petitioner within the degrees of consanguinity.” In other words, if you divorce your spouse and then move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend of the opposite sex, you could lose your right to continue receiving alimony.
Cohabitation Requires “Financial Interdependence”
But establishing when a relationship meets the standard for “cohabitation” can be more complicated than you think. Take this recent decision from the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Chaclas v. Chaclas. In this case, a husband and wife married in 1994. They separated in 2014. They reached a voluntary settlement on various outstanding issues, including alimony, which was incorporated into a final divorce decree approved by a judge in 2016.
Under the final divorce settlement, the ex-husband agreed to pay his ex-wife $6,000 per month in alimony from July 2022 to July 2023. But this payment would terminate upon the ex-wife’s remarriage or cohabitation. The agreement also required the ex-husband to pay the ex-wife 10 percent of the annual cash bonus he received from his job for a two-year period. Again, this benefit would end upon the ex-wife’s remarriage or cohabitation.
In September 2021, the ex-wife filed a petition to enforce the divorce settlement. She alleged the ex-husband failed to make the 10-percent bonus payments. The ex-husband replied that he did not make the payment because he believed the ex-wife was cohabitating with a man, which terminated his obligation.
The trial court granted the ex-wife’s petition for enforcement. The judge determined that while the ex-wife was in a “social and sexual interdependent relationship” with the other man, they were not in a “financially interdependent relationship.” That is to say, the ex-wife and the man did not share their income or assets. Nor did they provide any continuing financial support to one another.
The Superior Court upheld the trial court’s ruling. Essentially, while the parties may have slept together, and the ex-wife actually performed paid work for the man, there was no evidence of financial interdependence, which was a necessary element of establishing cohabitation under Pennsylvania law.
Contact Carbon County Divorce Lawyer Kim M. Gillen, Esq., Today
If you are involved in a divorce or a post-divorce legal dispute over alimony and need legal advice from a qualified Leighton family law attorney, contact the Law Office of Kim M. Gillen, P.C., today to schedule a consultation.