Do I Have To Pay Alimony If My Ex-Spouse Is Cohabiting During COVID-19 Quarantine?

Regulations and orders from federal, state, and local governments are impacting the way we live during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout Connecticut, significant others, relatives, or even friends have temporarily moved in to together during the coronavirus stay-at-home orders. What, if anything, can be done regarding your alimony obligation if your ex-spouse is living together with someone during quarantine?

 

Can Connecticut Alimony Obligations Be Modified Based On Cohabitation?

In some situations, alimony can be modified based on your ex-spouse’s cohabitation. Connecticut General Statutes §46b-86b provides that alimony orders can be modified in order to suspend, reduce or terminate the payment of alimony if the court determines that the party receiving alimony is living with another person “under circumstances which the court finds should result in the modification, suspension, reduction or termination of alimony.” The court must make a finding that the living arrangements change the financial needs of the alimony payee.

 

Can I Just Stop Paying Alimony If I Think My Spouse Is Cohabiting?

Most of the time you should continue to pay your court-ordered alimony obligation until the Judge has made a finding of cohabitation and modified your alimony order. Otherwise, you run the risk of being held in contempt of your alimony obligation. The courts in Connecticut generally do not approve of self-help.

If you have already discussed the situation with your ex-spouse and agreed to a temporary or permanent modification, this may be different. However, it is always best to have an experienced family law attorney to review your specific obligations and advise you on the best course of action for your case.

What If My Ex-Spouse’s Cohabitation Is Temporary (such as during COVID-19)– Can I Still Modify My Alimony Obligation?

A termination, suspension, or reduction of alimony can occur due to cohabitation that transpires during a brief time period of time or over several years, depending on the circumstances. In Connecticut, there is no specific length of time required to prove cohabitation. Rather, the court has the discretion to determine whether (regardless of the timeframe) your spouse is living with someone in a manner that impacts his or her financial needs.

If at all possible, prior to filing a motion for modification based on cohabitation, it is helpful to first determine whether and how the third party is contributing to your ex-spouse’s living expenses. For example—are they contributing to rent or mortgage? Are they paying for groceries or utilities?

 

What If My Ex-Spouse Has A Non-Romantic Relationship With The Third Party He Or She Is Living With?

In Connecticut, a finding of cohabitation is not dependent upon a romantic relationship. Your ex-spouse could be living with a romantic partner, a roommate, or a family member in circumstances that result in an alteration of his or her financial needs and a subsequent modification of alimony.

Modification of alimony based on cohabitation is highly fact-specific. Whether a person is an alimony recipient or an alimony payor, consultation with an attorney is helpful in determining how the law applies to the facts of the case. At Broder & Orland, LLC, we are adept at setting and litigating cases involving modification of alimony based on cohabitation.