March 4, 2014

When, Why, and How Cohabitation is a Bar to Alimony

Payee cohabitation affects alimony

There are many misconceptions about alimony, when it is awarded and when a party is no longer entitled to alimony. Some consider it to be merely a reward for one, and punishment for the other; however, it is intended to serve a critical function when the conditions are proper. Because cohabitation is a bar to alimony, it may not be awarded at all if conditions exist that prove the payee is in an interdependent relationship.

Cohabitation is a bar to alimony based upon evidence of certain factors relating to sharing residence and an interdependence. The purpose of alimony is intended to provide meet and support the reasonable needs of the spouse that is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment. Reasonable needs are defined in accordance with the standard of living that was established during the marriage. Other factors of course include the payor’s ability to pay.

Generally we see alimony awarded in high-income cases, whereupon one party was the primary earner or there is a dramatic difference in earnings between the spouses. The guidelines to understanding the amount and conditions for alimony to be awarded are determined pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3701. Alimony after divorce is really an auxiliary method to provide economic relief to a party who lacks the ability or skills to obtain employment; it also serves as a form of relief when the reasonable needs cannot be met by way of an award via equitable distribution.

If a party who is awarded alimony is found to be living with someone, this could evolve into a bar to alimony. Even if cohabitation only occurs for a defined period of time, the sharing of a residence and existence of interdependence is a bar to alimony, pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. § 3706. Cohabitation is a bar to alimony by being further defined via evidence of financial, social, and sexual interdependence.

One particular case, Moran v. Moran, 839 A.2d 1091, (Pa. Super 2003), illustrates this bar to alimony. The wife was denied alimony as she began living with a man after her and her spouse separated but prior to the entry of the final divorce decree. The evidence of shared bank accounts, shared responsibility for everyday expenses like food, showed the court that there was a level of interdependence that should preclude additional support from her ex. In Moran, the wife argued that the new couple had broken up and as such, were no longer in the interdependent relationship; however, the court did not alter its decision to deny alimony.

For those who are seeking alimony or those who wish to fight the award, our experienced Bucks County divorce lawyers can provide the knowledge and insight required to get the results you require. Contact the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. today at (215) 942-2100 to schedule your consultation with an experienced Doylestown divorce lawyer. Or complete an online inquiry form and a member of our staff will contact you to schedule your appointment.