After a divorce is over, alimony or spousal maintenance as it’s known in Illinois serves as a financial lifeline for many people. However, what you may not realize is that you can lose receiving those spousal maintenance payments in Illinois in ways other than by getting married. The specter of cohabitation looms large, presenting a complex web of factors that, if not navigated carefully, could lead to the termination of monthly spousal maintenance payments. In this blog post, we will explore the lesser-known threats to alimony, the legal nuances surrounding cohabitation with a significant other, and the potential consequences for those caught in its snare.
Understanding the Legal Landscape:
Cohabitation with a significant other in the context of alimony/spousal maintenance payments refers to living with someone on a conjugal basis while receiving spousal maintenance financial support. The legal framework is broad, and it’s not just about sharing a physical space. Factors such as vacations, spending holidays together, joint financial accounts, owning property together, and even posts on social media can contribute to the case for cohabitation.
The Burden of Proof:
The burden of proof falls on the party that has been paying the spousal support alleging cohabitation, and the evidence can range from tangible factors like joint accounts and shared property to more subjective elements like the frequency of spending time together. The absence of a bright-line rule adds complexity, giving judges significant discretion based on the specific circumstances of each case.
I was involved in a defense against a $750,000 claim for back maintenance due to alleged cohabitation. The factors examined included vacations, joint property, shared celebrations, and even the purchase of an engagement ring. The court ultimately did not find cohabitation in this situation, but it could have because of the broad discretion given to a divorce judge. The case underscores the wide-ranging aspects that the court can consider in determining cohabitation.
The Role of Social Media:
In this digital age, social media can be a double-edged sword. A simple post declaring a relationship status or sharing joint activities can be used as evidence in a cohabitation case. The online world, once thought to be private, can now have real implications on one’s financial situation post-divorce.
The Evolving Legal Landscape:
The legal landscape surrounding cohabitation and alimony is continually evolving. Recent cases show a trend toward stronger support for terminating spousal maintenance in cases of de facto cohabitation. Factors such as the duration and frequency of shared activities play a crucial role, and judges have significant discretion in interpreting the law.
Advice for Anyone Receiving Alimony or Spousal Maintenance Payments:
The threats of losing maintenance payments due to cohabitation requires a heightened awareness of the legal nuances involved. You should be cautious about joint financial activities, shared properties, and even the perception of a serious ongoing romantic relationship. Consulting with legal professionals during and after divorce is essential to understanding the potential risks and taking preventive measures.
The threat of losing maintenance through cohabitation is a complex and often overlooked aspect of post-divorce life. As illustrated by real cases, the factors considered by the court can be wide-ranging, and the consequences significant. You should be proactive in understanding the legal landscape, seeking legal advice, and taking steps to mitigate the risks associated with cohabitation. In the ever-evolving world of family law, staying informed is the key to protecting your financial interests and securing a stable post-divorce future.
The Law Offices of Patrick Markey, P.C. are dedicated to the Collaborative Divorce Process. Our offices are located at 180 Stetson Avenue, Suite 3500 in Chicago, Illinois. You can call us at 312-223-1763.