In New Jersey, cohabitation is defined as "a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or a civil union."
Most often, cohabitation arises as an issue in cases where an ex-spouse has an alimony obligation. Under New Jersey law, alimony can be terminated or modified when the supported spouse remarries, or cohabits with another. Whether two people are cohabitating is very fact-specific and can be very difficult to prove. For instance, under the alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, the court must consider 6 factors when deciding the issue of cohabitation:
- Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities;
- Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses;
- Recognition of the relationship in the couple's social and family circles;
- Living together, the frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other indicia of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship;
- Sharing household chores;
- Whether the recipient of alimony has received an enforceable promise of support from another person within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 25:1-5.
The court can also of course consider all other relevant evidence in reaching a decision. However, often, the payor ex-spouse will not be privy to details such as financial transactions or whether there has been a written promise to support. The court can order discovery into such issues, and after such discovery is completed, can also hold an evidentiary hearing. Most importantly, in the recently published case, Temple v. Temple, the Appellate Division made it clear that all 6 factors do not need to be present in order for the court to find for or against cohabitation.
No matter what side you are on, cohabitation cases are fact-sensitive and complicated. If you have any issues regarding cohabitation, contact the experienced family law team at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf, LLP.