Moving in With a New Partner Can End Your Spousal Support
If you are divorced and receiving maintenance payments from your ex-spouse, you may have come to rely on that money. Maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is intended to help a financially disadvantaged spouse in the years that follow a divorce, so such reliance is rather understandable. There are, however, a few situations in which your actions could cause maintenance payments to end. It is important to understand the law in Illinois so that you can make the best decisions for your future.
Ending Support Obligations
Permanent maintenance—in other words, support for the rest of a spouse’s life—is generally reserved for divorces between spouses who have been married for 20 years or more. For shorter marriages, the court will usually set a specific amount of time for maintenance payments to last. Both situations presume that the court has identified the need for maintenance. When a support order includes an intended end date, payments must continue until that date unless the recipient remarries or either spouse passes away. (It is possible for a divorce settlement to include security provisions in the event of the paying spouse’s death, but that is a topic for another day.) The third situation that could terminate a spouse’s obligation to pay maintenance is if the recipient spouse moves in with a new romantic partner.
According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), a maintenance obligation is terminated when the recipient spouse “cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis.” So, what does that mean? Does it mean a certain number of overnights at a new flame’s house per week? Does it mean simply living under the same roof? There have been several court rulings that address these questions, and the general answers are “it depends.”
To be clear, living in the same home is definitely a requirement to be considered cohabiting under the law. But, getting a roommate—even one that you may have a romantic relationship with—is not necessarily enough to end the maintenance order. You and your new partner must be found to essentially behaving like a married couple before maintenance will be terminated. This means you do things like share household finances, take vacations together, generally act like spouses to each other. Interestingly, courts have determined that sex is not necessarily required for the relationship to meet the criteria of the law.
The basic idea is that your maintenance payments are intended to provide the support you need for your post-divorce life. If you get remarried, such support becomes the part of the responsibility of your new spouse. Sometimes, however, a divorced person will begin a new relationship and move in with their new partner while refusing to get married simply because they will lose their support payments. The cohabitation clause in the IMDMA prevents you from essentially “double-dipping” by receiving support from a previous partner and a current partner at the same time.
Call Us for Help
If you have questions about maintenance laws in Illinois, we can help. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney to discuss your situation. Call 630-232-9700 for a confidential consultation at The Law Offices of Douglas B. Warlick & Associates today.