Both cohabitation and remarriage are grounds for termination of alimony in Pennsylvania. In the case of remarriage, a court-ordered alimony award is terminated automatically upon the receiving spouse’s remarriage. However, if the couple settled outside of court, the divorce settlement must include a statement terminating alimony upon remarriage in order for it to end. Most divorce agreements in PA do include such a provision.
Cohabitation will also terminate court-ordered alimony, but it must be proven. Cohabitation in PA is recognized when a person is living with someone of the opposite sex who is not a close relative, demonstrates evidence of romantic or sexual relationship, and comingles assets or finances, thus approximating marriage.
If you believe your ex-spouse to whom you pay alimony is cohabiting and therefore believe your alimony should be terminated, you need to petition the court for an order to terminate alimony. File a motion in the court that handed down your divorce decree and be prepared to present evidence and witnesses in court to support your claim.
In order to gather evidence, look for pictures on social media or talk to friends or neighbors. You may have to hire a private detective who knows how to legally collect evidence of cohabitation – this may include surveillance, collection of documentation, and getting subpoenas to collect records. Our article Proving your Spouse is Cohabiting goes into more detail on this.
When you suspect your ex is living with someone and doesn’t deserve alimony anymore, it’s important to do a cost-benefit analysis. Consider the court and legal fees, the cost of hiring a private investigator, the time and effort associated with collection and court appearances, and the possible damage to relationships with friends and family. If your monthly alimony payment is not very large or burdensome and is awarded for a limited time, you know exactly how much alimony will cost you and can easily compare. You may find it’s not worth the expense or effort. If, however, your alimony payments are large or have no termination date stipulated by the court, you may determine it is worth the effort.
Child support is not automatically affected by termination of alimony. However, if you feel the cohabiting arrangement is not in the best interests of your children, you may wish to petition the courts for modification of custody.
These are decisions best reviewed with an expert in divorce law. if you suspect your ex-spouse is cohabitating, contact us here at Ulmer Law so we can help you determine the best approach regarding alimony and child custody.