Spousal support is based on one spouse’s obligation to provide financial help to their low wage earning spouse. Spousal support can be paid both during and after divorce to help maintain the marital standard of living of the supported spouse for a specified period. People commonly believe spousal support is paid for the lifetime of the supported spouse. Under most circumstances, there are specific conditions or circumstances that may end the need for spousal support. With this in mind, what are the effects of cohabitation and spousal support? Read on to learn more.

Questions regarding the payment of spousal support commonly arise when divorced couples cohabitate with new partners. California Family Law Code section 4323 (a)(1) provides that there is a rebuttable presumption of a decreased need of support when the supported party is cohabiting with a person in a romantic relationship. The presumption requires the supported spouse to show a continued need for support.  Therefore, cohabitation and spousal support are somewhat related. If your former spouse is cohabiting with a new significant other, you may be able to reduce an existing spousal support order. Contact A People’s Choice for more information.

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Motion to Address Cohabitation and Spousal Support Issues

In California, spousal support is modified in the same way that it is ordered, through the court. To reduce or terminate spousal support, a party must file a motion or “Request for Order” with the court. The court clerk will provide the moving party with a hearing date. The other party will need to be served to give them notice of the hearing. Depending on whether the case is active or not, personal service (rather than service by mail) may be required.

As mentioned above, a common reason spousal support is reduced or terminated is because the supported spouse remarries or cohabitates with their new significant other. Cohabiting with another partner usually reduces the supporting spouse’s living costs. Based on this change of circumstance, spousal support may be modified to reflect the supported spouse’s adjusted cost of living.

Jennifer met Rich, a hedge fund manager six-months after her divorce. Sam, Jennifer’s ex-husband, was ordered to pay $1,000 per month in spousal support to Jennifer for ten years. Jennifer moved in with Rich one-year after her divorce and pays no rent or utility expenses. Since Jennifer’s living expenses have been reduced, Sam can file a motion to reduce the spousal support amount he pays Jennifer monthly.

Pamela was married to Tom for ten-years. Upon divorce, Pamela was ordered to pay Tom spousal support each month. Following the divorce, Tom begin dating again and got into a serious relationship with Mary. Though Tom sees Mary often during the week, they each maintain a separate residence. Pamela would have little standing to reduce spousal support on the grounds of Tom’s new partner because Tom does not cohabitate with Mary.

When Cohabitation and Spousal Support are Not Interlinked

Nowadays, a Marital Settlement Agreement is often signed when parties divorce. These agreements often contain a specific clause about how cohabitation and spousal support affect each other. Sometimes, the agreement provides that spousal support will automatically stop upon cohabitation for a specified period (such as 60 days). Other agreements may be silent on the issue. If the marital settlement agreement addresses the issue of cohabitation and spousal support, it may not be necessary to file a motion. The terms of the marital settlement agreement will define what happens when the party receiving support cohabitates with another person.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about how to reduce or end a spousal support order. We can help you draft the forms you need to file a Request for Order to modify or stop spousal support.

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