The Dangers of Cohabitation After a Divorce

If you are emotionally ready, starting a new relationship after a divorce may be a good idea. Depending on your situation, living together may be a bad idea because it may jeopardize, among other things, the alimony you receive and child custody arrangements. 

Could Cohabitation Impact Alimony? 

Pennsylvania statute 23 P.A.C.S. § 3706 states that cohabitation bars receiving alimony

“No petitioner is entitled to receive an award of alimony where the petitioner, subsequent to the divorce pursuant to which alimony is being sought, has entered into cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex who is not a member of the family of the petitioner within the degrees of consanguinity.”  

“Cohabitation” under this statute has been interpreted as meaning: 

  • Two persons of the opposite sex residing together 
  • In the manner of husband and wife 
  • Mutually assuming those rights and duties that usually come with marriage 

Cohabitation may be shown by evidence of: 

  • Financial, social, and sexual interdependence 
  • Sharing the same residence 

This statute, strictly speaking, only applies to opposite-sex couples, though a divorce agreement could ban alimony if a party cohabitates with someone of the same sex as well. 

Could Cohabitation Impact Child Custody? 

Courts should make custody and visitation decisions based on the child’s best interests. Starting a new relationship, especially if it reaches the point where the two of you live together, could result in the other parent (rightly or wrongly) challenging your custody (whether that has been decided by a court in the past or it will be determined in the future): 

  • What is your relationship history? Have you had several partners moving in and out? The more unstable your household, the higher the number of people living with your child, the bigger the problem 
  • Does your partner have problems? Do they use illegal drugs, abuse alcohol, or suffer from poorly managed psychological issues? Do they have a criminal record? Are they a potential threat to the child? 
  • What is the relationship between your partner and your child? Does your partner care about your child or are they indifferent? Do they treat your child well or are they abusive? 
  • Does your partner degrade the other parent in front of the child? Do their words show they are trying to alienate your child from the other parent? Do they lobby you to ignore parenting time arrangements so the other parent sees their child less often? 
  • Are you also living with your partner’s children? If so, how does that affect your child? How do those children treat your child? How has that impacted your child’s relationship with you? 

You should live your own life, but if you share custody of a child with another person, they can have a say in what is going on if your lifestyle, and the people you share it with, negatively impacts their child. That may include your loss of custody if a judge sees it is not in your child’s best interests. 

If you are in a positive, stable relationship, and your partner is a good influence on your child who is benefitting from their presence, that relationship may make your argument for custody stronger. 

Work With Experienced Alimony and Child Custody Attorneys You Can Trust 

No matter which side you are on, if cohabitation becomes an alimony or custody issue, work with an experienced family law lawyer from Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., who has an in-depth understanding of Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws and court procedures. Call us at (215)752-6200 or book a consultation online now