New York: Cohabitation is … in the Eye of the Beholder

When does the obligation to pay alimony end? That depends on many factors.

More and more, it is the intention of legislators, courts and divorcing couples that the alimony obligation end when the receiving spouse enters a marriage-like relationship, even if it lacks the ceremonial formality of marriage per se. In other words, “cohabitation”.

But what is “cohabitation”? That depends too.

New York’s highest appeals court recently addressed that very issue. In a case where a settlement agreement provided that alimony terminate if the wife lived with a new significant other for “60 substantially consecutive days”.

The evidence showed that she did in fact live with her significant other for the specified time period. What’s the issue?

Under prior New York case law, the intermediate appellate court concluded that cohabitation required “sharing of finances”. And that this “couple” did not do.

New York’s highest court held that the definition of cohabitation depends on diverse factors and the parties’ intent.

The decision is expected to incite much litigation over cohabitation as applied to the specific facts of particular cases.

Florida’s counterpart to NY law on “cohabitation” sets forth the factors comprising a “supportive relationship”.

Read more in this Newsday article: Court: ‘Cohabitation’ ambiguous in NY divorce law.