Lawyer Monthly awarded Meriwether & Tharp Family Law Firm of the Year for the entire nation!!

Thanks for printing!  Don't forget to come back to Meriwether & Tharp, LLC for fresh articles!

Proving Cohabitation

According to Georgia alimony law:

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).

Put plainly, if your ex-spouse begins living with a new boyfriend or girlfriend after you were ordered to pay alimony to him or her, you may ask the court to downwardly modify your alimony obligation or terminate it completely. Hurley v. Hurley, 249 Ga. 220 (1982). Despite their ability to seek a downward modification or termination of alimony pursuant to Georgia law, many obligated ex-spouses find it difficult if not impossible to prove to the court that their ex-spouse is living in cohabitation with a significant other.

Very rarely will an ex-spouse receiving alimony be willing to admit to cohabitation, because such an admission has the potential to negatively impact that amount of alimony received. Additionally, alimony recipients may go to great lengths to mask such relationships in an effort to thwart an obligated ex-spouse’s efforts to reduce alimony payment. With this being said, what is an obligated ex-spouse to do if he or she knows their ex-spouse is cohabitating with a lover but is unable to prove the relationship? Below is a list of questions and concerns for obligated ex-spouses to consider in determining whether there is enough evidence to seek a modification of alimony based on the recipient’s cohabitation.

  • Does the cohabitating couple share a residence? How may this cohabitation be proven?  – Even if the residence is owned or paid for by one of the parties solely, there are other ways to prove a shared residence, such as the amount of time each party spends at the residence or the amount of food consumed at the residence. For instance, an increase in the amount of food purchased for consumption in the home may indicate the addition of another occupant.
  • Is the payment of utility or other household bills shared by the couple? If your ex-spouse’s new lover is responsible for paying certain household expenses, like utility bills, this fact points toward cohabitation.
  • How does your ex-spouse characterize his or her relationship? Does your ex represent the relationship as a committed or exclusive relationship?
  • Does your ex’s new boyfriend or girlfriend share parenting responsibilities with your ex?
  • Are there pictures of your ex and their paramour on social media sites that tend to prove the couple’s cohabitation?
  • Does you ex seem to have more cash on hand than normal? If so, this may point to the financial contribution of another person in his or her household.