How Does Cohabitation Impact Spousal Support in Florida

In Florida, cohabitation can be grounds to modify alimony or spousal support payments if a supportive relationship exists between an ex-spouse and their new partner.

Cohabitation is defined as two parties living together in one residence.

Courts in Florida consider key factors on whether to reduce or terminate alimony payments, like financial interdependence, relationship length, and evidence of a supportive relationship.

If an ex-spouse has a supportive relationship, the court may change the alimony order, affecting the other spouse. However, defining cohabitation alimony Florida laws is important before diving into its impacts.

What is Cohabitation Under Florida Law?

Defining cohabitation is not limited to a romantic or marital relationship with the same or opposite sex. It also applies to two people in a platonic relationship in one home or property sharing with a family member.

It can be considered a supportive relationship if there is proof of shared expenses, personal property, or a contract. However, this arrangement becomes complicated if one party has obligations to pay alimony to a former spouse.

During a divorce settlement, an alimony award to a former spouse can be given if a court sees the need and ability of the other spouse to provide financial support.

If the spouse who provided support has evidence proving cohabitation, it may lead to the termination of alimony. The spouse receiving alimony payments may cause cohabitation issues in their ex-partner’s new relationship due to their need for financial support.

The term ” supportive relationships” can be broad; in 2008, a Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals held a case where an ex-spouse argued that his former wife cohabiting with a cellmate inside a prison is grounds for terminating alimony.

To avoid this from happening again, a trial court must check several factors to determine if the alleged supportive relationship exists and is valid.

What Factors Do Florida Courts Use to Determine Cohabitation?

According to Florida law, cohabitation is a supportive relationship between two people sharing a home and other expenses. There is often a contract signed or an implied agreement to provide economic support to one another.

According to Florida Statute 61.14, cohabitation can be grounds to reduce or terminate alimony payments.

Since the alimony payor has to financially provide for another supportive relationship, they may argue to stop giving spousal support.

Below is a list of factors Florida courts consider when determining cohabitation:

  • Parties’ self-perception and behavior as a married couple.
  • Use of new partner’s name/address by alimony recipient.
  • Duration of cohabitation.
  • Degree of financial intermingling between parties.
  • New partner’s financial support for ex-spouse’s children.
  • Joint purchases of significant assets.
  • Evidence suggesting a permanent, supportive relationship.

The above factors along with supporting evidence are used by Florida courts to determine cohabitation.

What Evidence Do Florida Courts Consider When Determining Cohabitation?

The former spouse paying alimony must have a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists.

This phrase means significant evidence with multiple witnesses must be provided to show that their argument for reducing alimony has greater weight than arguments from the receiving spouse.

While a marriage license can be easy to provide, a supportive relationship does not require marriage. To amend this, Florida statutes and laws allow other evidence to be gathered by the payor.

The following are types of evidence that can prove a supportive relationship:

  • “Marriage”-like Behaviors: Though a supportive relationship does not require an official marriage, other behaviors can prove that both parties are interdependent. These include a shared common mailing address, permanent residence, and surname.
  • Support for Another’s Children: If an individual can show that they provide financial support for the children or family members of the other party, it can be grounds to reduce alimony to a former wife or husband.
  • Shared Assets: A former wife or husband can show documents proving shared bank accounts, assets, savings plans, and retirement accounts. These substantial pieces of evidence prove the payor is focused on providing for someone other than their ex-spouse.
  • Joint Expenses: If the cohabiting parties do not have physical proof of shared assets, other payments such as subscription services, joint credit card debt, or contractor invoices can help reduce or terminate the alimony order.

Based on these proofs, the court can reduce or end the alimony if the payor has evidence that they are focusing financially on a supportive relationship.

Consult with a law firm specializing in family law to guarantee the strength of the evidence.

Since a trial court considers such an arrangement as a substantial change after the finalization of a divorce, there is a significant impact on spousal support payments once there is a preponderance of the evidence.

What is the Impact of Cohabitating on Spousal Support Payments?

If the payor and the court agree that a supportive relationship counts as cohabiting, this can be sufficient cause to change a previous spousal support order.

The payor must first prove that they no longer financially support their ex-spouse’s alimony agreement due to sudden loss of income, cohabitating with someone else, or unseen expenses. They can then appeal for spousal support order modification.

Spousal support and alimony in Florida have the same definition; they are temporary payments after a divorce to help a former wife or husband financially recuperate. Though it is not always given, the court may grant alimony if they see the need for it.

How Does the Paying Spouse Request a Change in Spousal Support Payments?

Regarding alimony in Florida, modifying a spousal support order starts after the recipient spouse contributes financial documents such as income, expenses, and debts. The other must also provide similar documentation.

They then go through an extensive discovery phase where both individuals request more financial documentation from the other to prove the need to reduce or end spousal support. An example is if one person gives valuable services to the other’s company or employer.

Ex-spouses, a divorce attorney, and the court must all have an express agreement to end alimony based on cohabitation. Following this rule helps in avoiding court issues that greatly affect the case.

While some may consider remarrying to mean the same as cohabiting, there is a difference regarding alimony payments.

What is the Difference Between Remarriage and Cohabitation?

Spousal support stops immediately after remarriage, unlike cohabitation, where any change requires evidence and a court appearance.

To avoid people purposefully avoiding paying support, Florida family law clarifies that cohabitation is grounds for a termination of alimony.

Without this being clear, it would be unfair if an ex-spouse receiving alimony would enjoy the many benefits of extra money or cohabiting with a new partner by avoiding acquiring a marriage license.

If an individual wants to stop or reduce the alimony amount while maintaining a supportive relationship, they must have all the necessary documents to change the order.

Various law firms provide services to help gather the right evidence to support the claim. These firms can assist both parties with alimony modification if it’s needed.