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Cohabitation

Georgia law provides for various circumstances under which periodic alimony will terminate. Many are familiar with the concept of alimony ending upon the remarriage of the recipient spouse. In Georgia, there are two other circumstances under which alimony may be terminated. One of these circumstances is the cohabitation of the recipient spouse with a romantic partner. Specifically, Georgia law states:

“Subsequent to a final judgment of divorce awarding periodic payment of alimony for the support of a spouse, the voluntary cohabitation of such former spouse with a third party in a meretricious relationship shall also be grounds to modify provisions made for periodic payments of permanent alimony for the support of the former spouse.”

O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19(b).

However, unlike the remarriage of the recipient spouse, cohabitation by the recipient spouse with an intimate partner does not require the termination of alimony. In essence, if the recipient spouse remarries, alimony is terminated automatically absent some other agreement; but, if the recipient spouse simply cohabitates with another individual, alimony may be modified. Hurley v. Hurley, 249 Ga. 220 (1982). Thus, the obligated spouse must petition the court for modification of his or her alimony obligation based on the recipient spouse’s cohabitation.

For the purposes of this law, which is commonly referred to as the live-in-lover law, the word “cohabitation means dwelling together continuously and openly in a meretricious relationship with another person, regardless of the sex of the other person.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-19(b). This law does not apply if the person whom the recipient spouse is cohabitating with is the obligated spouse. Upton v. Duck, 249 Ga. 290 (1982). To be a basis for the termination or modification of periodic alimony, the cohabitation must be open and ongoing. Periodic contact between the former spouse and his or her romantic interest will not suffice. Reiter v. Reiter, 258 Ga. 101 (1988).

This law regarding the termination of alimony is referred to as the live-in-lover law in part because this is the type of relationship that will constitute cohabitation for the purposes of terminating alimony. In fact, the word meretricious in the above cited Georgia Code section refers to relationships where the parties live together as if they were married, sharing living expenses and carrying on an intimate relationship. In fact, in order for the obligated spouse to support his or her claim that alimony should be terminated or modified because of the recipient spouse’s cohabitation, that spouse must provide proof that the recipient spouse is sharing living expenses with the purported lover or that the recipient spouse is engaging in a sexual relationship with the purported lover. Hathcock v. Hathcock, 249 Ga. 74 (1982). Similar to remarriage though, the parties are free to come to an agreement which waives the obligated spouse’s right to seek the termination or modification of alimony in the event of a live-in-lover. Daniel v. Daniel, 250 Ga. 849 (1983).