Can Cohabitation Cost Me In Georgia?
It is not an uncommon event for someone’s alimony payments to end upon their remarriage. However, many do not know that even cohabitating (living together with another person) can alter alimony, depending on the facts of the situation. This can sometimes lead to some unpleasant surprises, so it is a good idea to consult an experienced family lawyer before moving ahead on any type of cohabitation plans.
Alimony Does Not Always End
Unlike in many other states, cohabitation does not automatically end alimony in Georgia. The rationale in some other jurisdictions is that the person with whom the recipient is cohabitating can support them if need be, so alimony is no longer necessary. Georgia law recognizes that sometimes the situation is more complex than that. It places the burden on the obligor (the person required to pay alimony) to bring an action in court to modify their payments, rather than making the recipient defend why the payments are still necessary.
There is a specific definition of ‘cohabitation’ in Georgia law, and there are several key words that must be shown in any case where someone wishes to petition to end alimony payments. Cohabitation is defined as living together “continuously and openly” in a “meretricious” (intimate, acting as if married) relationship with another person, regardless of gender. So, for example, if a divorced spouse takes in a family member, or a platonic roommate, these relationships would not meet those criteria.
Action Is Required
It is important to keep in mind that alimony does not have to end even if someone is cohabitating with another. If someone is living with another person continuously and openly, and they are carrying on as if they are married to that person – for example, having a joint bank account, sharing a bed, going on vacations together – then they are cohabitating, but Georgia law holds that cohabitation may be grounds to modify alimony. It does not mandate that alimony payments must be terminated – and it will not even be modified if the obligor does not bring a petition to do so.
It is also possible under state law for you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse to come to an agreement to end alimony sooner, or to not end it at all. Georgia courts generally honor agreements made between spouses unless the agreement is plainly unconscionable – in other words, so manifestly unfair that any reasonable person would come to that conclusion. You and your spouse are free to negotiate between yourselves, as long as the outcome is fair, and have that agreement entered into the court record as part of the final decree of divorce.
Can An Atlanta Alimony Lawyer Help You?
Cohabitation can be a tricky issue to navigate, but if you have an attorney on your side who understands the details of the law and of your situation, the process will go more smoothly. The Atlanta alimony attorneys at Buckhead Family Law can sit down with you and try to help get your questions answered. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney.