Will cohabitating impact your Texas spousal maintenance?
The decision to end a marriage is incredibly difficult. The divorce process can take a heavy toll and most who go through the ordeal celebrate when it is finalized. An award of Texas post-marital maintenance may seem certain.
Death and remarriage are well known reasons that future maintenance payments stop. Less well known is that cohabiting may also end a maintenance obligation.
When a subsequent relationship becomes serious it is important to review whether cohabiting could land you back in court. Texas statute allows a former spouse another round in court if the spouse receiving maintenance cohabits with another person as part of a romantic relationship.
Initial determination and eligibility for maintenance
Maintenance is generally limited in duration to a maximum of five or ten years based on the length of the marriage. A Texas court initially completes a complex analysis when awarding maintenance. Some of the many factors considered include:
- Ability of each spouse to provide for their minimal needs independently
- Skills and education of each spouse
- Employment history, earning ability and physical and emotional condition
- Property brought to the marriage
- Marital misconduct
The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage is also important. When there is a large disparity in the how much each spouse earned, maintenance provides income to pay for reasonable needs following a divorce.
What exactly counts as cohabitating?
A former spouse who pays considerable maintenance may carefully watch for signs of cohabitation. The spouse who seeks to eliminate a maintenance obligation however must prove cohabitation.
Cohabitation is not well defined. Spending more than three nights or leaving a toothbrush and clothing at the home of a significant other might indicate cohabiting. A shared bank account or shared family cellphone plan could be other indicators.
Evidence may come from surveillance video and photographs or witness testimony. Bank statements, credit card bills may also show financial and social interdependence. This all goes to whether maintenance is still needed to pay for reasonable needs.
Does cohabiting affect contractual alimony?
When spousal support is agreed through a Mediated Settlement Agreement cohabitating may not have an effect. The court does not apply the family code provision related to cohabiting with these contractual agreements. The court is bound by the terms and provisions of the agreement. The failure to include a cohabitation clause would mean a former spouse could not terminate the obligation upon evidence of cohabiting.
Financial stability is often tied up in the receipt of maintenance. Do not put your finances in jeopardy; speak with an experienced divorce attorney if considering divorce or cohabiting after a divorce.