Does Your Ex-Spouse’s Cohabitation Stop Alimony Payments in Florida?
In Florida, the payer spouse can stop alimony payments if the recipient is cohabitating or engaged in a supportive relationship with another individual. However, determining what constitutes “cohabitation” and “supportive relationship” in Florida is not always clear.
To determine whether your circumstances warrant a modification of the alimony order, speak with an Orlando spousal support attorney.
When Does Cohabitation and Supportive Relationship Reduce or Terminate Alimony?
Florida courts may approve your spousal support modification request based on cohabitation if you are able to establish one of these things:
- The cohabitant provides support to the recipient; or
- The recipient contributes to the support of the cohabitant.
The recipient may stop receiving payments if he or she cohabitates with a member of the opposite sex – or the same sex since same-sex marriage was legally recognized in Florida – following a divorce.
Although Florida’s family law specifically excludes family members from the “cohabitation” rule, there have been countless cases where the payor attempted to terminate or reduce spousal support because the recipient is living with a family member.
What does qualify as a “supportive relationship” is a rather tricky determination to make. In its infamous ruling in 2008, the Fourth District Court of Appeals held that the recipient who was serving a jail sentence was “cohabitating” with her cellmate, which allowed her ex-husband to request a modification of alimony. Read more about the case Craissati v. Craissati, 997 So. 2d 458.
Is Cohabitation Based on Financial Support?
Although economic support plays a major role in establishing a “supportive relationship,” decisions to modify an alimony order are almost never based on this factor alone.
When it comes to defining cohabitation in Florida, the court evaluates whether the party receiving alimony has entered into a relationship that provides him or her with the financial support equivalent to a marriage. If so, the court may reduce the amount of alimony or terminate the order altogether.
Proving a Supportive Relationship to Modify Alimony in Florida
It makes sense why cohabitation stops alimony payments in Florida. Since spousal support terminates upon remarriage of the spouse receiving spousal support, it would not be fair if that spouse would be able to circumvent that rule and keep receiving alimony payments simply by avoiding acquiring a marriage license.
Without the cohabitation exception in family law, a spouse receiving alimony would be able to enjoy the many benefits of marriage, including engaging in an economically supportive relationship with a new partner, while still collecting spousal support from the former spouse.
Doing so would not be fair. However, unfortunately, the process of terminating alimony if your ex-spouse has engaged in a supportive relationship is still pretty complicated because the payer spouse has the burden of proving his or her ex-spouse’s “supportive relationship” by a preponderance of the evidence.
Therefore, if you need to prove a supportive relationship to modify the existing spousal support order, you need an Orlando spousal support attorney to help you with extensive discovery and collecting sufficient evidence to establish your former spouse is engaged in a supportive relationship. Contact Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee to discuss your legal strategy. Call our offices at 407-521-7171.