My spouse is cohabitating. Can I stop alimony payments?
2012, a new alimony law went into effect in Massachusetts. This
alimony law contains a provision that reads:
General term alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon
the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that
the recipient spouse has maintained a common household, as defined in
this subsection, with another person for a continuous period of at
least 3 months
language seems to say that if the ex-spouse cohabits for three months
or longer that alimony is automatically terminated, reduced, or
suspended. However, that is an incorrect interpretation of this law.
payment or non-payment of alimony is controlled by court orders.
Unless and until a Judge orders termination or suspension of alimony
existing orders must be obeyed. This means that alimony must
continue to be paid until a judge issues an order that changes the
existing orders. Some separation agreements and divorce decrees have
language that automatically terminates alimony upon cohabitation.
Other agreements can't be modified by a Judge and alimony must
continue to be paid despite the cohabitation. The rest of the orders
of alimony must be presented to a judge in the form of a modification
action in which the relief sought is termination of alimony. This
allows the judge to hear facts to determine if cohabitation has
occurred. In some cases, a judge may reduce alimony instead of
terminating the payments.
is a complicated area of law. Wrongful termination of alimony can
result in a judgment of contempt against the payor. Before taking a
unilateral action that violates a court order a family law attorney
should be consulted. Such an attorney can review the existing orders
and evidence of cohabitation and advise on the parties rights and
obligations concerning future alimony.