Alimony and Legal Issues When Getting a Divorce While Living With Someone Else

Understanding the impact of a new relationship on your divorce case.

It’s not uncommon for divorcing spouses to race into new relationships, even while a divorce is pending. A partner may offer security, but that new relationship could impact alimony or other issues in your divorce. Learn more about the potential effects of a rebound relationship on your divorce case.

Overview of Divorce Process

Either spouse may file for divorce by submitting a divorce complaint, which is also referred to as a petition for divorce. Once the divorce petition is personally served on the other spouse, the divorce process has officially begun. Couples may be able to reach out-of-court settlements quickly, either on their own or with the help of a mediator and/or attorneys, and resolve their divorce almost seamlessly. Other times, a divorce case may drag on for months or even years.

In cases where couples are not able to reach a settlement agreement, a judge will decide issues like custody and alimony at trial. Trials are both expensive and time consuming. Spouses will typically hire attorneys to represent them in court, and this will cost a substantial amount in attorney's fees. The attorneys will conduct all the pre-trial work, such as investigation, discovery, motion work, and hearings. Each spouse will usually testify at the final divorce trial and be expected to present evidence and witnesses to support all claims.

Fault Versus No-Fault Divorces

When you file for divorce, you will file on fault or no-fault grounds. Virtually every state recognizes some form of no-fault grounds, also called irreconcilable differences. No-fault divorces are usually simpler and don’t require either spouse to prove that the other caused the divorce by adultery, neglect, cruelty, or other fault grounds.

In most cases, a no-fault divorce is the best option for divorcing spouses because it simplifies the process. However, some spouses may want to show the court that the other spouse was at fault, particularly if the misconduct will affect alimony or property awards under the state’s laws.

Many states still allow one spouse to plead fault grounds in a divorce. In these states, alimony and property awards are often affected by one spouse’s fault. Specifically, a judge may increase one spouse’s alimony award if the other spouse had a number of affairs during the couple’s marriage and wasted marital funds on those trysts or engaged in domestic violence against the supported spouse.

Will My Spouse’s Marital Misconduct Affect an Alimony Award?

Although the rules vary from state to state, generally, alimony is based on the recipient spouse’s financial need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. In some states, a judge may consider marital fault, such as one spouse’s desertion, cruelty, adultery, or reckless spending to award a higher amount of alimony. Other state laws specifically prohibit a judge from factoring marital fault into a support award.

For example, in Texas alimony is only awarded in rare circumstances where a couple has been married at least 10 years or there has been domestic violence. In many other states, one spouse’s affair can be grounds for obtaining or increasing an alimony award. Even in states like Florida that don’t allow fault-based divorces, one spouse’s adultery can still lead to an increased alimony award for the innocent spouse.

What Happens to My Alimony If I Live with Someone Else?

Generally, alimony is terminated one of three ways: death of either spouse, remarriage by the recipient spouse, or cohabitation. If you’ve been awarded alimony as part of your divorce, in most states it automatically terminates as soon as you move in with your girlfriend or boyfriend. This same rule also applies to temporary alimony awards.

Judges may award temporary child support or alimony while a divorce suit is pending to help a needy spouse cover expenses. A temporary alimony award isn’t permanent, but will last until your case settles or goes to trial, and a judge issues a final award.

Keep in mind that your temporary alimony award can terminate before trial if you move in with someone else during your divorce. If you’re the spouse responsible for paying alimony, your new live-in boyfriend or girlfriend probably won’t affect your support obligation.

Do Adultery or Cohabitation Affect Property Division?

The answer is “sometimes.” In states that recognize fault-based divorces, one spouse’s adultery or cohabitation during a marriage can affect how a judge divides property in a divorce. In states that factor in marital fault, the innocent spouse may receive a larger portion of the marital estate, including assets, property, or cash.

Moreover, a judge isn’t limited to considering what happened during your marriage. If you choose to live with a new flame while your divorce is pending, a judge may consider your cohabitation during your divorce. For example, living with someone while your divorce is pending won’t be considered adultery. However, a judge may decide that you’re depleting marital property by sharing it with someone other than your spouse and may order that you reimburse your ex for a portion of the amount spent.

While it may be tempting to flaunt a new love interest in front of your spouse, make sure you understand the potential impact this relationship can have on your divorce case. If you have more specific questions, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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