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Does spousal maintenance end due to cohabitation?

Does spousal maintenance end due to cohabitation

Spousal maintenance, more commonly referred to as alimony, especially outside of Texas, is court-ordered financial compensation made by one spouse to another after a divorce, often in monthly increments. Spousal maintenance aims to oblige and support the receiving spouse to maintain a reasonable standard of living. However, what happens when the receiving spouse begins to cohabit with someone else? Does spousal maintenance end due to cohabitation? In Texas, the answer is often complex, dependent on several characteristics, and requires careful consideration.

What is Cohabitation?

Cohabitation refers to living with someone as if you were married, without actually being married. Cohabitation can include sharing a home, having a romantic relationship, and acting as a domestic partnership. In Texas, cohabitation could end spousal maintenance.

Does Spousal Maintenance End Due to Cohabitation?

The answer to the above question regarding cohabitation as a barrier to spousal maintenance lies very much in the details. Many forthright scenarios automatically bring spousal support to an end, such as the obligee’s remarriage or upon the obligee’s or obligor’s death (FAM § 8.056).

If the recipient of spousal maintenance begins cohabitating with someone else, the paying spouse may be able to petition the court to terminate or reduce spousal maintenance. Texas law states that spousal maintenance can be modified if the recipient cohabitates with another person. However, the paying spouse must prove that the recipient is cohabitating.

The authorized ending of an obligation to pay maintenance is known as a termination under Texas law and can, but does not always, result from cohabitation. Upon finding that the obligee cohabits with another person with whom he or she has a romantic or dating relationship, the court shall hold a hearing and likely terminate the maintenance obligation. Any maintenance due up till the date of termination must still be paid.

Note: The parties can come to agreements regarding cohabitation and spousal support. Via a mediated settlement agreement, spousal support may not be affected by cohabitation. Contractual agreements between divorcing parties are not covered under the Texas family code—however, couples divorcing should include cohabitation clauses in their contracts.

Determining Cohabitation Factors Concerning Termination of Spousal Maintenance

The Texas Family Code provides that spousal maintenance may be terminated if the spouse receiving maintenance cohabits with another person in a “permanent” manner. The Code does not define what “permanent” means, so it is left to the courts to determine what constitutes permanent cohabitation on a case-by-case basis.

Texas courts have found that the following factors may be considered in determining whether cohabitation is permanent:

  • Length of time the couple has lived together;
  • Whether the couple has pooled their resources and finances;
  • Whether they share expenses and pay bills jointly;
  • Whether they have joint accounts, joint credit cards, or joint loans;
  • Whether they own property together;
  • Whether they have intermingled their assets;
  • Whether they have made plans for the future together, such as buying a house or having children;
  • Whether they hold themselves out as a couple to others, such as introducing each other as “husband” or “wife” or wearing wedding rings.

The court may also consider additional relevant factors in determining whether cohabitation is permanent.

A receiving spouse’s maintenance ends when he or she remarries, but it may not end if they cohabitate. In Texas, the burden of proof falls on the spouse who wants to terminate spousal maintenance due to cohabitation. The paying spouse must prove that the receiving spouse is cohabiting in a “permanent” manner. The paying spouse may need to provide evidence, e.g., photographs, witness testimony, or financial records, to support their case.

If the court determines that the receiving spouse is cohabiting in a permanent manner, spousal maintenance may be terminated. However, the court may choose to modify the spousal maintenance order rather than entirely terminating it. For example, the court may reduce the amount of spousal maintenance or change the duration of the payments.

In the event of cohabitation, spousal maintenance is not automatically terminated by the court. The paying spouse must file a motion with the court and provide evidence to support their case.

Identifying Your Situation and Hiring a Spousal Maintenance Attorney

As the text outlined above has identified, spousal maintenance may be terminated or modified in Texas if cohabitation is discovered as permanent. The determination of whether cohabitation is permanent depends on various factors, and the burden of proof falls on the paying spouse.

If you are the paying spouse and believe that your ex-spouse is cohabiting in a permanent manner, an attorney can help you gather the evidence you need to support your case and represent you in court. Alternatively, suppose you are the receiving spouse and believe your ex-spouse is trying to have your spousal maintenance terminated or modified due to cohabitation. Under such circumstances, it is vital to confer with a lawyer immediately. An attorney can help you defend against the motion and protect your rights.

In addition, if you are the receiving spouse and considering cohabiting with someone else, it is essential to understand how this may impact your payments and futural spousal support. When concerns arise regarding cohabitation and spousal maintenance, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Texas spousal maintenance attorney for a confidential consultation.

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