Alimony and the Effect of a Supportive Relationship
There are several categories of alimony which are addressed by Florida Statutes. The primary factor which determines the type of alimony to be awarded is the length of the marriage. Of course, this is only after a determination is made whether alimony is even appropriate based upon a number of other factors including obviously the income of the parties and the need by one spouse. When one thinks of alimony most people think of “permanent alimony”, which is a payment received by a spouse each month. Permanent alimony usually only occurs if the marriage is considered long term, which is defined in Florida Statutes as a marriage of 17 years or more. There are, however, circumstances when permanent alimony can be awarded in a marriage with a shorter duration, but that is the exception to the rule.
Permanent alimony will terminate upon the remarriage of the receiving spouse or the death of either party. It is not uncommon for there to be a life insurance component to ensure that the receiving spouse will be protected should the paying spouse die before his/her alimony obligation is terminated. There is another event which could either reduce or terminate permanent alimony. This is referred to in Florida law as a supportive relationship between the spouse receiving the alimony and a person with whom he/she resides. This is sometimes referred to as cohabitation between two parties. The law, however, is much more specific than just two parties cohabitating or living together. What the court may look to is the following:
1. The extent to which the parties may hold themselves out as a married couple (without being legally married). This includes using a common mailing address or using the same last name.
2. How long the parties have resided together?
3. Are the parties financially dependent upon one another? Have they pooled their assets?
4. Have the parties jointly purchased any real or personal property, such as a home or a car?
5. Is one of the parties financially supporting the other?
These are a few of the criteria the court may use to determine if, in fact, a supportive relationship does in fact exist. The burden of proof is on the paying spouse to prove the existence of this relationship. It is in fact a somewhat difficult issue to prove. The law was passed to prevent a spouse from continuing to receive alimony just because he/she did not get legally married. This law recognizes that a relationship, even without the issuance of a marriage license can be the basis of a termination of an alimony obligation.
If you know anyone who has questions about the above issue have them call my office for a consultation.