Temple for temple, cohabitation, and alimony in New Jersey

New Jersey maintenance can be changed, suspended, or even canceled if a maintenance payer can demonstrate that their ex-spouse is living together.

What is coexistence?

Most know that if a former spouse who receives maintenance remarries, there is no maintenance. Coexistence, on the other hand, occurs when a divorced party does not legally remarry, but instead enters into a mutually supportive and intimate personal relationship that is normally associated with marriage.

Some of these cohabiting ex-spouses deliberately delay or forego marriage, knowing that if they take the next step and remarry, they will not be supported.

To counteract this possibility, the New Jersey legislature has passed a law that allows dependents to reduce, suspend or even terminate their maintenance obligation if they can prove that their ex-spouse is living together.

Courts that judge whether coexistence is taking place must consider a number of non-exclusive factors, including:

  1. Intertwined finances such as shared bank accounts and other shared interests or liabilities;

  2. Share or share responsibility for the cost of living;

  3. Recognition of the relationship in the couple’s social and family environment;

  4. Living together, frequency of contact, length of relationship and other signs of a mutually supportive intimate personal relationship;

  5. Joint housework;

  6. whether the dependent has received an enforceable promise of support from another person; and

  7. Any other relevant evidence.

This does not necessarily mean that the couple must live together full-time for a court to determine that they are cohabiting. Rather, the courts will consider the above factors when determining whether a couple is living together.

How difficult is it for a person liable for maintenance to prove that they live together?

The answer to this question is often sensitive to the matter at hand. However, it is important that the person liable for maintenance bears the burden of proof that the cohabitation has taken place and that there is a significant change in the economic circumstances on which the maintenance is based.

In most cases, the debtor is aware that the debtor is with someone. The children may report that the loved one has often stayed or moved into the house. Maybe they’ll post their vacation photos on social media. But how does someone who may not be on good terms with their ex-spouse find out if they are sharing living expenses, bank accounts, and / or other intertwined finances? Most of the time, this information is not even remotely accessible to a former spouse.

How does a spouse get this information? In order for a paying spouse to even have the opportunity to request a determination of cohabitation from their former spouse (a broad term that refers to the forced disclosure of information and documents), they first have the burden of proof in front of the court that a Coexistence is likely. If the payer’s spouse cannot meet this burden of proof, the court may refuse to make a determination.

Conceptually, this puts the paying spouse in a difficult, if not impossible, situation. In order for the paying spouse to be able to obtain the proof, which is not available to him, that his ex-spouse is living together (as defined by the factors mentioned above), does he first have to prove that they are likely to live together?

What the paying spouse actually needs to demonstrate in order to gain the ability to gather intelligence and figure out what is really going on has been applied ambiguously and inconsistently on a case-by-case basis, with each judge deciding these questions with very little guidance as to how much evidence present is sufficient to advance the case and obtain detection.

While investigation and presentation of all available evidence is critical to the success of any case, a recent decision, Temple v Temple, has somewhat leveled the playing field.

What has changed and how does it help those liable for maintenance?

The facts in Temple are not uncommon in cohabitation disputes. A husband and wife divorced after a long marriage, with the wife’s husband paying permanent alimony. Sixteen years later, the husband filed a petition in court for the waiver of his maintenance obligation because the wife had either remarried or was living with a man with whom she had had a long-term relationship after the divorce.

The wife submitted a written response with her own alleged statements about her relationship with the Lord, claiming that she was neither remarried nor lived with him under the law. The trial judge mistakenly accepted the wife’s written statement as true and denied the husband’s request. This prevented the husband from investigating and disclosing information and / or documents that could have provided him with further evidence of the wife’s cohabitation.

The husband successfully appealed and the Appeals Division overturned the trial court’s denial and dismissed the case to allow the husband to seek an investigation and obtain evidence. The Temple Court made it clear how the legal proceedings must deal with allegations of cohabitation and under what circumstances a disclosure is permitted.

While previous jurisprudence gave the impression that courts of first instance should only allow disclosure if there was initially a high burden of proof and the person liable to pay maintenance had independently obtained substantial evidence, Temple now seems to have lowered this bar significantly.

The Temple decision is significant and is likely to allow many more dependents to seek disclosure from their ex-spouse in order to obtain evidence that would otherwise have been prevented from legitimately proving their case and duly cut their alimony payments . suspended or terminated.

Success in cohabitation proceedings largely depends on the timing of your filing, as well as the investigation and precise presentation and application of the facts in your matter to applicable law.

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