Alimony payments after cohabitation or remarriage in Massachusetts
Alimony is often a contentious issue in a divorce, and when a married couple splits they often don't agree on whether alimony is at all justified or what amount is fair. A new law that went into effect in Massachusetts in early 2012 established different limits on alimony that depend on a number of factors, with the length of the marriage among the most important determinations. Other key factors include the ability of the spouses to support themselves, their age, their economic contributions to the household (including one spouse making sacrifices to support the other's career or education), and their current lifestyle.
Alimony arrangements may be subject to modifications as well. One of the most important changes of circumstances is when the recipient of the alimony takes up with a new partner. A "complaint for modification of alimony" may then be filed, leading the court to review the current alimony agreement and change it as needed.
When the ex-spouse who is receiving alimony cohabitates with a partner, their alimony payments may be reduced, suspended for some temporary duration, or even completely stopped. How is cohabitation defined? It involves at least three months of continuously residing in the same residence with a new partner. In order to get an alimony modification in these circumstances, the ex-spouse paying out the alimony needs to prove to the court that 1) the cohabitation really has been continuous for the minimal duration required; and 2) the cohabitation arrangement is financially beneficial, such that the spouse receiving the alimony doesn't require these payments, at least for as long as the cohabitation lasts. It's not always easy to prove these two points conclusively to the courts; cohabitation isn't as straightforward as remarriage.
In most circumstances, when the spouse who's receiving alimony remarries, they can no longer collect alimony. However, there are some relatively rare cases where a spouse can continue receiving alimony even after remarriage. In most cases, they'd have to demonstrate unusual economic hardship - not simply a change in lifestyle from what they were accustomed to, but a persistent financial struggle; this may come about if they have a disability, for instance. However, if the courts do terminate alimony following a remarriage, if this new marriage ends then alimony payments won't start up again - not unless there was some explicit written agreement made to this effect during the divorce proceedings.
Whether you're paying out alimony, or receiving alimony, be sure to contact expert divorce attorneys to discuss your concerns about alimony in a case of cohabitation or after remarriage. We'll be able to give you advice and advocate for you in court to receive a fair outcome.