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The Impact of Remarriage and Cohabitation on Alimony in New Jersey

paper with alimony lettering near dollar banknotes and engagement rings

Alimony, aka spousal support, is a not uncommon feature of many divorces. New Jersey law recognizes several different forms of alimony which can be awarded for different reasons. Depending on the type of alimony, support can be ordered for years or even permanently. But what happens when a former spouse who is receiving alimony remarries or moves in with a new partner? Do the alimony payments change, or do they terminate altogether? Is a modification or termination automatic, or does it require the paying party to go to court first? Learn about the impact of remarriage and cohabitation on alimony in New Jersey below. For help with alimony and other divorce issues in Union, Essex, or Middlesex County, contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Union family law attorney.

Remarriage and Alimony in New Jersey

When an alimony recipient remarries, the legal landscape changes dramatically. Under New Jersey law, specifically N.J.S.A. 2A:34-25, alimony obligations generally terminate upon the recipient’s remarriage. The law applies to a former spouse who remarries or a former partner who enters into a new civil union. This statutory provision reflects the assumption that the financial needs of the alimony recipient are likely to change with the new marital union, as the new spouse is expected to contribute to the household income.

As mentioned earlier, New Jersey law recognizes several different kinds of alimony, and the type of alimony ordered is crucial when discussing the termination of alimony upon remarriage. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-25 only applies to limited duration or permanent alimony. An ex-spouse or partner who is receiving reimbursement alimony or rehabilitative alimony will not have their alimony terminated due to remarriage. To terminate these forms of alimony, the paying party would have to demonstrate that the recipient is not following through on the requirements for this kind of alimony, or there was an agreement to terminate on remarriage or other good cause to end the payments.

A landmark case that underscores this principle is Lepis v. Lepis (83 N.J. 139, 1980). In this case, the New Jersey Supreme Court established that remarriage is a significant change in circumstances that justifies a termination of alimony. The court noted that the burden shifts to the recipient to demonstrate why alimony should continue despite the remarriage, a challenge that is rarely successful.

For individuals paying alimony, it is essential to promptly petition the court for termination of alimony upon the recipient’s remarriage. Failure to do so could result in continued payments that might be difficult to recover. Likewise, the law requires recipients to promptly inform their ex-spouse and the collecting agency, if any, about their remarriage to ensure compliance with the law and avoid potential legal consequences like being ordered to pay the other party’s attorney fees and court costs in a legal action to terminate alimony.

While alimony payments stop as of the date of the new marriage, a remarriage does not wipe out any arrearages. If the paying party was behind on alimony payments, they still owe that amount to the person who was receiving alimony.

Cohabitation and Alimony in New Jersey

Cohabitation, unlike remarriage, does not automatically terminate alimony but can lead to a court order ending the payments. Cohabitation involves a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship, typically demonstrated by shared living arrangements, intertwined finances, and joint responsibilities. The burden of proof lies with the alimony payer to show that such cohabitation exists and justifies modifying or terminating alimony.

The New Jersey Supreme Court case Konzelman v. Konzelman (158 N.J. 185, 1999) is pivotal in this context. The court ruled that cohabitation can be grounds for modifying or terminating alimony if it is shown that the recipient’s financial needs have changed due to the new relationship. The court emphasized that the focus should be on the economic impact of the cohabitation rather than the mere fact of living together.

The most recent amendments to the alimony statute, effective since September 2014, further clarify the impact of cohabitation. The revised law, codified at N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n), outlines several factors the court must consider in determining whether cohabitation exists, including:

  • Intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts and other joint holdings or liabilities
  • Sharing or joint responsibility for living expenses
  • Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family circle
  • Living together, frequency of contact, the duration of the relationship, and other relevant evidence of a mutually supportive personal relationship
  • Sharing household chores

In the case of Spangenberg v. Kolakowski (442 N.J. Super. 529, 2015), the court found that cohabitation existed based on evidence of shared living expenses, joint travel, and the couple’s acknowledgment of the relationship in their social circles. As a result, the court modified the alimony arrangement, reducing the payments significantly.

Practical Advice for Alimony Payers and Recipients

For alimony payers, gathering evidence of cohabitation can be challenging but necessary for modifying alimony obligations. This evidence can include shared financial documents, social media posts, and testimonies from mutual acquaintances. Consulting with an experienced family law attorney can provide invaluable guidance in building a strong case.

For recipients, it is crucial to be aware that cohabitation can prompt a reassessment of alimony. Transparency about living arrangements and financial interdependence is vital. If cohabitation leads to a significant change in financial circumstances, recipients should be prepared for the possibility of reduced alimony.

Contact the Union Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro for Help With New Jersey Alimony Matters

If you have questions about how remarriage or cohabitation might affect your alimony situation, consulting with an experienced family law attorney at the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro can provide the clarity and support you need. Call us today at 908-964-0101 to schedule a consultation. Our team is dedicated to helping clients in Union, Essex, and Middlesex counties manage their family law matters with expertise and compassion.

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