Terminating Alimony (Spousal Support) Due to Cohabitation

  • Jan 30 2019

When a couple divorces, the court may order one spouse to pay alimony or spousal support to the other spouse. Illinois refers to alimony or spousal support as “maintenance.” The length and amount of maintenance payments vary based on several factors. If you believe your ex-spouse is cohabitating with another person, you may be able to terminate your maintenance payments.  Chicago divorce lawyers can review your case and advise whether you have a strong case for terminating maintenance.

When Does Maintenance Terminate as a Matter of Law?

Illinois maintenance laws are very clear as to when maintenance terminates as a matter of law. Unless the parties enter a written agreement, maintenance terminates if either party dies or if the party receiving maintenance remarries. Maintenance also terminates if the party receiving maintenance lives with (cohabits) another person on a “resident, continuing conjugal basis.”

While proving your ex-spouse remarried may be as simple as obtaining a copy of the marriage license, proving that your ex-spouse is living with another person on a “resident, continuing conjugal basis” can be more difficult. Termination of maintenance based on this grounds rests with proving that the recipient of the maintenance payments is involved in a de facto husband-wife relationship. The courts do not require that you establish a sexual relationship between your ex-spouse and another person to terminate maintenance, but it does require that you prove something more than your ex-spouse is living with another person.

Proving a Resident, Continuing Conjugal Relationship

Case law has established that you do not need to prove that your ex-spouse is living with another person full-time to prove your case.  However, it is much more difficult to prove a de facto marital relationship if the parties are not living together and have not co-mingled their finances. The statutes do not define the length of the cohabitation, and “conjugal” is not based on a sexual relationship but on a marriage-like relationship.

Therefore, through various cases, judges have established case law that provides six factors that a judge considers when hearing a cohabitation case. The factors the judge uses to define the relationship are:

  • The length of the relationship;
  • The amount of time the parties spend with each other;
  • The type of activities the parties engage in together;
  • The interrelation of their personal affairs;
  • Taking vacations together; and,
  • Spending the holidays with each other.

The above six factors are not a checklist that a judge uses to determine a marriage-like relationship. The issue in question is the totality of the circumstances. In other words, do all the factors taken as a whole establish a marriage-like relationship between the couple. If so, the judge is more likely to terminate alimony based on the maintenance recipient engaging in a resident, continuing conjugal relationship.

Hiring Private Investigators to Gather Evidence in a Termination of Maintenance Case

Some individuals retain the services of a private investigator to gather evidence to prove their ex-spouse is in a marriage-like relationship with another person. Each case is based on the unique facts in that case and is decided by a judge who reviews all evidence submitted by the parties. Therefore, it is difficult to provide a list of evidence that works in each case.

Private investigators are trained to search for evidence that can establish a relationship between parties when one of the parties is avoiding a legal marriage with the intent to continue receiving maintenance payments. Some of the techniques a private investigator may employ to obtain evidence include surveillance, researching public records, examining items in the garbage, and reviewing social media accounts.

Evidence that a private investigator may obtain that could be useful in a cohabitation case include:

  • Video and photographs of the parties coming in and out of the residence while staying overnight.
  • Copies of driver’s licenses, titles, tax information, magazine subscriptions, credit card statements, voter’s registration, and other documentation showing the couple uses the same address.
  • Evidence that the couple has jointly titled property or leases property jointly.
  • Information from social media accounts stating the individuals are a couple.
  • Evidence that the couple has joint financial accounts.
  • Photographs from social media accounts showing the couple spending time together during the holidays and on vacation.
  • Verifying that neither person has another residence or residential address.

The above is just an example of the evidence that may be used to prove a cohabitation case. Your Chicago alimony lawyers can work closely with you and/or your private investigator to obtain evidence that builds a strong case for termination of maintenance based on allegations of cohabitation. Contact the Illinois alimony attorneys at the Goodman Law Firm to discuss your legal options.

 

 

 

Posted in: Divorce