Divorce Law Family Law Legal Topics

Shacking Up May Shake Up Support

101395434It’s popular knowledge that remarriage is the death knell to spousal support, but did you know that cohabiting can also affect spousal support? With love and plans to live together floating around on this Valentine’s Day, it’s wise to consider this financial reality.

Here’s the law in California: When a supported party is cohabiting with a nonmarital partner, there’s a rebuttable presumption of a decreased need for support, unless the parties agree otherwise in writing. Fam C §4323(a).

The thinking is that a “[c]ohabitation may reduce the need for spousal support because ‘sharing a household gives rise to economies of scale. Also, more importantly, the cohabitant’s income may be available to the obligee spouse.'” Marriage of Bower (2002) 96 CA4th 893, 900 (citations omitted).

To establish cohabitation under the statute, a person doesn’t need to hold himself or herself out as the spouse of the person with whom he or she is living, but the relationship has to be more than a roommate/boarder arrangement—there must be a sexual relationship, a romantic involvement, or at least a homemaker-companion relationship. Marriage of Thweatt (1979) 96 CA3d 530, 534.

The burden is on the supported party to show that, despite the relationship, his or her need for support hasn’t diminished. See Evid C §§600(a), 606.

Proving a romantic relationship in a courtroom setting is often interesting, sometimes even humorous, e.g., inferring such a relationship from the alleged boyfriend’s coming out for the newspaper in his bathrobe. In the Huffington Post Divorce Blog post 10 Ways to Show Your Ex is Living With Someone, one of the suggestions is to check social media for evidence of coupledom. Even if you don’t get lucky with a relationship status update, photos can be a goldmine.

Get ready to handle issues around modifying or terminating spousal support with CEB’s California Child and Spousal Support: Establishing, Modifying, and Enforcing, chap 8. On spousal support issues generally, check out CEB’s Practice Under the California Family Code: Dissolution, Legal Separation, Nullity, chap 6.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find interesting:

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6 replies on “Shacking Up May Shake Up Support”

Thanks Julie! Another reminder to those in Family Law that you must ask the important questions of your client, do you live with someone and does this person help pay some of the household bills? Social media is also used very often to gather information to use for your client and against the other party, so your client should be cautioned about what they post as well.

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