HOW DOES COHABITATION AFFECT ALIMONY IN FLORIDA?

Alimony payments may be reduced or terminated when a former spouse enters into a supportive relationship.  The payor bears the burden to prove that a supportive relationship exists.  Some of the factors that Florida courts assess in determining whether a supportive relationship exists are as follows:

First, whether the recipient and the cohabiting party have held themselves out as a married couple.

Second, the amount of time that the parties have resided together in a permanent residence.

Third, whether the parties have pooled their income and assets.

Fourth, whether the recipient or the cohabiting party have supported each other.

Fifth, whether the recipient or the cohabiting party have performed services that are valuable to each other.

Sixth, whether the recipient or the cohabiting party have performed services that are valuable to the other’s company or their employer.

Seventh, whether the recipient and the cohabiting party have combined to enhance or create something of value.

Eighth, whether the recipient and the cohabiting party have contributed to the purchase of property.

Ninth, whether the recipient and the cohabiting party have an express or implied agreement regarding support and property sharing.

Tenth, whether the recipient and the cohabiting party have provided support to the other’s children.

In a recently decided case captioned Klokow v. Klokow, the former husband filed a Supplemental Petition to Reduce or Terminate Alimony.  The parties married in 1989.  The former husband was a dentist, and the former wife worked parttime in the office.  In 2011, the former husband learned that the former wife was in an extramarital relationship. The parties divorced, and in 2014, the former wife purchased a home. The former wife’s boyfriend moved into the home that the former wife purchased.  Less than three years after the divorce was granted, the former husband filed a Supplemental Petition to Reduce or Terminate Alimony.  The Florida Court of Appeal found that the former wife was in a supportive relationship because the former wife and her boyfriend lived in the former wife’s home since 2014, the boyfriend made improvements to the home, the former wife and her boyfriend worked together to improve the home, the boyfriend paid for some of the parties’ food and entertainment as a rental contribution, the parties supported each other emotionally, and the parties have been involved in a serious relationship.

Although the former wife and her boyfriend did not jointly own property and did not co-mingled their financial accounts, the Florida Court of Appeal stated that these facts alone are not determinative of whether a supportive relationship exists.  Factors that the Court emphasized were the nature and duration of the relationship, and whether the parties relationship constituted the substantial equivalent of a marital relationship.

The Florida Court of Appeal ruled that once a supportive relationship was proven, the burden of proof shifted to the recipient spouse to prove that she had a continued need for support.  In determining whether or not continued alimony was required, the trial court was directed to look at the recipient’s need, the payor’s ability to pay, and the parties’ standard of living during the marriage.  The Court found that ordinarily, a recipient’s need for support is reduced by financial support that the recipient is receiving from a cohabiting party.  Additionally, alimony may be reduced when a former spouse is supporting a cohabiting party.  The Court ruled that the former spouse had no obligation to support the cohabiting party, and that alimony was excessive when it was being used to support a cohabiting party.

Based upon the foregoing analysis, the Florida Court of Appeal remanded the case to the trial court and directed it to reconsider its determination as to the former wife’s income in light of  her ability to contribute to her boyfriend’s support and in light the contributions that she received from her boyfriend.

To speak with a Palm Beach Gardens divorce attorney to discuss alimony, contact the Lane Law Firm, P.A. at (561) 363-3400.

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