In case you are okay with dwelling collectively, then it actually ends dwelling collectively, even when the dwelling collectively ends

The livelihood impact of living together is often one of the most difficult clauses to negotiate in a marriage contract. The payer always wants the agreement to be such that the maintenance ends with the cohabitation, while the recipient, if allowed to consent, can consent to the payer to change the maintenance “in accordance with the law”. In general, “the law” would be an economic benefit test – that is, the dependent receives an economic benefit from living together and / or grants one to his roommate.

At least since 1999, when the Konzelman case was ruled by the Supreme Court, agreements to end the maintenance due to the cohabitation are enforceable if the cohabitation is proven and the “cohabitation provision of the marriage contract” is present [sic] was voluntary, knowing and consensual. “

But what happens in a case with a clear end of cohabitation clause where cohabitation ends, maybe because of litigation or simply because the relationship has ended? Should the maintenance recipient be entitled to maintenance again? Today the Supreme Court said no to that question in the Quinn v Quinn case. In other words, the law is now clear that if you have a waiver and you are cohabiting, the alimony ends even if the cohabitation ends.

In Quinn, the parties divorced in 2006 after 23 years of marriage. According to her Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), the wife should receive permanent living expenses of approximately $ 68,000 per year plus an increase in the cost of living. The PSA stated that “the maintenance ends with the death of the wife, the death of the husband, the remarriage of the wife, or the cohabitation of the wife, depending on the case or the lawwhichever comes first. ”The wife began living together in January 2008. Coexistence contained all of the usual hallmarks of cohabitation – including the fact that the cohabitant kept their own house – apparently only for appearances. PRACTICAL NOTE: Finally a case that seems to go beyond the fiction of a separate residence to which the roommate has access but is not actually living.

The cohabitation is said to have ended about a month after the application for termination of maintenance was submitted. Although it was found that coexistence was taking place, the decision of the court of first instance deviated from the PSA. Special,

After the court found that Cathleen and Warholak lived together, the court relied on its fair powers and suspended the maintenance for the period they lived together – from January 2008 to April 2010 – but refused to end the maintenance permanently . The court of first instance based its decision on the large income gap between Cathleen and David and concluded that Cathleen was “completely dependent on her maintenance for her support”.

However, since the court found her unbelievable in her testimony that she had tried in bad faith and falsely refused to live together, the payer was awarded $ 145,536.74 in legal fees. Both parties appealed, but the Appeals Department upheld. Both parties sought a certificate from the Supreme Court, but only the payer’s petition was granted on “whether the court has properly exercised its fair power to amend the clear and explicit terms of any PPE knowingly and voluntarily entered by both parties”.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision:

In summary, we reiterate today that a cohabitation termination agreement made by fully informed parties, represented by an independent attorney and with no evidence of excessive demands, fraud or coercion, is enforceable. It does not matter that the coexistence ceased during the process if this relationship had existed for a longer period of time. In those circumstances, if a judge finds that the dependent spouse lived together, the guilty spouse is entitled to full enforcement of the parties’ agreement. When a court amends an agreement for no compelling reason, the court will deprive the parties of the assurance they believed they had obtained and, in the long run, undermine the court’s preference for resolving all disputes, including marital disputes. There were no compelling reasons to deviate from the clear, unambiguous and mutually understood conditions of the PPE. We therefore overturn the judgment of the Appeals Chamber.

Finding that courts have greater discretion in interpreting marriage contracts, the Supreme Court reiterated that “an agreement that resolves a marital dispute is no less a contract than an agreement that resolves a business dispute”. Of course, the court failed to correlate this statement with the famous quote from the landmark Lepis case that “contractual principles have no place in the domicile”, but I digress.

The Supreme Court made it clear that this case was settled on the basis of the law in force at the time of the agreement, rather than the amendments to the 2014 Maintenance Act. It must be repeated that under the new law, maintenance can be suspended or terminated if there is a cohabitation.

To equate this with remarriage, the Supreme Court found:

In addition, Cathleen continued to live with Warholak after David filed the request to end the alimony and was still living with him when the trial began. This record represents a situation no different from remarriage that ends in death or divorce. In view of the agreement of the parties that the maintenance ends when they live together, the circumstances do not lead to the expectation of a different result here.

The Supreme Court rejected the notion that this type of provision allows a payer to control the maintenance recipient, and holds:

Finally, we reject the suggestion that enforcement of this cohabitation agreement would allow one ex-spouse to control the post-marital behavior of the other spouse. Such an assertion misjudges the purpose of identifying coexistence as an event of the termination of a livelihood and also misinterprets this record. If the parties to a marriage contract have agreed to allow the termination of maintenance in the event of remarriage or cohabitation, they have acknowledged that the events are of equal value. In any situation, the couple has built a lasting and committed relationship. In every situation, the couple has joined forces to comfort and support one another. The only difference between remarrying and living together is licensing and taking vows in the presence of others. Unless the facts indicate otherwise than that the relationship has all the hallmarks of marriage, the lack of official recognition does not provide a principled basis for treating cohabitation as a subsistence event other than remarriage.

We are not suggesting today that a romantic relationship between one dependent and another, characterized by regular meetings, participating in mutually cherished activities, and spending a few nights in one or the other’s home, rises to the level of coexistence. We agree that such a level of control over a former spouse would be unjustified and could violate the no-obligation clause found in many divorce agreements. However, the romantic relationship described above is not the long-term relationship portrayed in this voluminous record.

Finally, this case is unusual in that Judge Albin filed a strong disagreement about the hard outcome for the recipient here (which will be the subject of a separate post on this blog). The majority replied:

Our dissenting colleagues point out the financial consequences of this decision for Cathleen. Of course, these consequences are grave. However, the file shows that she knew that living together would risk losing her main source of income, and considering the consequences, she moved on to live with Warholak. She, not the court or her ex-husband, made her financial situation worse by quitting her job and presenting a defense that the court found unfounded. (Emphasis added)

In rejecting the dissident’s opinion that an economic utility test should always be used, the majority stated:

Nor can we subscribe to the view taken by our dissenting colleagues that the application of Gayet’s economic dependency or dependency rule to the private life of the ex-spouse is somehow less restrictive. There are few exercises more intrusive than the need to identify each expense and the source of the funds for each expense. Such a query brings to light a large amount of personal information about the daily life of the ex-spouse that is not of concern to the obliged spouse. In addition, sixteen years ago that Konzelman court rejected the introduction of the Gayet rule of economic dependence or trustworthiness when the parties had agreed in a conjugal settlement agreement that cohabitation was an end-of-child maintenance event. We see no basis for deviating from this statement. (Emphasis added)

In the past, and perhaps even now, far too many cases were settled with indefinite language that required a legally compliant dismissal – without stating which law was specified. Quinn proves that this was a dangerous practice for the recipient.

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