Many divorce decrees provide that alimony shall terminate when the recipient spouse is cohabitating with an unrelated adult of the opposite gender. While termination of alimony is common in divorce decrees, the lack of a definition of “cohabitation” has made it difficult for the trial court and for individuals to determine when the provision is applicable. The New Hampshire Supreme Court addressed this issue in the case of In the Matter of Raybeck and Raybeck where the Supreme Court has defined cohabitation as “a relationship between persons resembling that of a marriage”. The Supreme Court went on to say that whether two people are cohabitating depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular case, but when on to provide guidance to the trial court and the litigants as to what facts and circumstances would support a finding of cohabitation.
Firstly, the parties would need to live together on a continual basis. Additionally, the Supreme Court suggested that the financial arrangements between the two people, such as sharing expenses, maintaining joint bank accounts or investment accounts, retirement plans, life insurance, etc. are all evidence of cohabitation. The court further stated that sharing finances is more important when the parties are younger in age as senior citizens are less likely to share financial obligations because they are typically more financially secure and have estate plans to benefit the children of prior relationships.
The Supreme Court further noted that evidence of the personal relationship, such as how the parties hold themselves out to others and the presence of common friends and acquaintances are important factors in finding cohabitation. While the Supreme Court noted that the evidence of an intimate or sexual relationship is evidence of cohabitation, the lack of an intimate or sexual relationship does not prohibit a finding of cohabitation, especially in cases where the parties are older.
Moreover, the Supreme Court noted that the shared use of personal property in the cohabitation such as shared household rooms, furniture, vehicles, clothing and other personal items are also evidence of cohabitation. The views of the parties’ friends and relatives on the nature of the relationship are also evidence of cohabitation.
The Raybeck decision provides helpful insight in evaluating whether alimony should terminate if the decree contains the appropriate language. If you have any questions regarding termination of alimony or any issue relating to a divorce, please contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.