If you’ve been subjected to a spousal support order, then you know that the financial burden placed upon you can be enormous. Your hard-earned money may be leeched away from you in a way that leaves you feeling cheated. However, in most cases alimony isn’t meant to last forever, and it’s always susceptible to modification. While there may be a number of factors that contribute to a modification, cohabitation is once circumstance that can be the death knell for your spousal support obligation.
How cohabitation affects alimony
Under California law, there is a presumption that a spousal support obligation decreases or ceases upon the receiving spouse’s cohabitation with another individual. This means that if you can prove cohabitation, then the burden is shifted to your spouse to show that continued support payments are necessary despite the fact that he or she lives with someone else.
So how do you prove cohabitation? There are a lot of ways to investigate this issue, but here are some steps that may be helpful to you:
- Scan social media: If your former spouse has a new love interest, then there’s a good chance that there are posts on social media that show just that. If you see any of these post or pictures of your former spouse with his or her new love interest, be sure to take screenshots and document when you saw the picture or post and when you took the screenshot. Anything indicative of them living together is a bonus.
- Figure out where your spouse goes after work: If you can figure out where your spouse goes after work and where he or she leaves from in the morning, then you’ll at least know where he or she is living the majority of the time. This may be achieved through records requests, depositions, or a private investigator, not through stalking.
- Talk to neighbors: If you suspect that your spouse is living at a location, you may want to talk to neighbors who can confirm who lives in that particular residence. If they indicate that your former spouse is there all the time, then you’ve got a strong case for cohabitation.
- Determine who is paying the bills: Remember, financial support is going to be key to your case, so figuring out who is paying the rent or mortgage, as well as utilities and other living expenses can be key. You can figure out this information by subpoenaing any records that you may need and deposing your former spouse and his or her love interest.
Addressing ongoing support
Remember, even if you prove cohabitation, your spouse will have the ability to rebut the presumption that spousal support should be reduced or eliminated. Therefore, you should be prepared to counter your former spouse’s arguments. To do so, you need a full and accurate picture of your former spouse’s new financial standing. This is why engaging in thorough discovery can be critical to your case. You’ll also want to keep the other spousal support factors in mind as you craft your arguments.
Legal help is here if you need it
The financial ramifications of your ongoing spousal support order are significant. That’s why you should do everything you can to try to remedy the issue if you suspect that your former spouse is no longer deserving of that support. It can be a hard-fought issue, though, which is why you may benefit from the assistance of an experienced family law attorney as you navigate these matters.