Coming to the end of the divorce process usually means you’re free to move on with your life. However, as a man going through a divorce in Florida, there may be a lingering aspect of your marriage that is still causing a certain amount of frustration: alimony payments.
While this is considered to be part of a fair division of assets, you certainly don’t expect it to be a permanent arrangement. In most cases, the courts will place an end date on your payments. But these can stop sooner if your ex is in a cohabiting relationship. After all, it’s not fair for you to keep giving a portion of your income if your former spouse is gaining financial support from a new partner.
If your ex is honest and forthcoming about the situation, ceasing alimony payments is straightforward. But if you’re not that fortunate, though, you may find yourself having to petition the courts. As such, you’ll need evidence that your former spouse is cohabiting. Let’s take a look at how you can best go about proving the circumstances so you can stop those alimony payments.
Knowing the Rules
The laws and standards regarding alimony are not the same in all areas of the country. Each state has its own standards that impacts how alimony adjustment or termination is applied. In Florida, the approach to ending an arrangement of this nature may seem relatively straightforward, but there are elements that can make it a little difficult to navigate. This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced family law attorney for men if you’re going through this situation.
In this state, your former spouse doesn’t have to be married to a new partner for alimony termination proceedings to get underway. New legislation was introduced in 2005 to take into account divorced parties that are cohabiting with a partner. More specifically, cohabiting in a way that suggests they’re living as they would if they were married.
This is where matters can get a little tricky. To establish cohabitation as a grounds to end or modify alimony, you need to be able to prove that your spouse is receiving support from their partner in a way that would be equivalent to a married couple. In essence, that this new relationship is meeting the support levels your alimony payments are intended to provide.
Proving a marriage is easy. There are official records in place that are usually accessible to some extent to the public. In a cohabitation situation there are usually no such formal records, which means you must rely on other forms of evidence to prove your grounds for alimony modification. The areas you need to consider include:
- Presentation as a Married Couple
Your spouse and their new partner need to be presenting themselves to all intents and purposes as though they’re married. There are various types of behavior that can suggest this. They may be using one another’s surnames — not necessarily in an official capacity but on social media or subscription services. They may be hosting traditional family events at their shared home, like thanksgiving gatherings or joint family christmas meals. These on their own are unlikely to be sufficient, but they can make for a stronger case with other evidence.
- Support for One Another’s Children
When children are involved on either side of your ex’s new partnership, this can become a key source of evidence. If your former spouse’s child is receiving support from the new partner, this can be considered grounds to modify alimony. This doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to financial support, either, though that tends to be the strongest evidence. It can be as simple as providing care to the child while your ex isn’t present. It’s a demonstration of support equivalent to that present in a marriage.
- Shared Assets
This is one of the more reliable focuses for evidence gathering. The sharing of significant assets is one of the hallmarks of cohabitation. This could include jointly held bank accounts, savings plans, retirement funds. Even sharing a health insurance plan can be viewed as a joint asset. Owning a property or being joint signatories on a mortgage for their home may also be considered as evidence of cohabitation here.
- Joint Expenses
Much like the aforementioned assets, expenses can offer a useful papertrail of evidence. Utility bills in both partners’ names are not necessarily sufficient on their own, as this can still be common in a room-mate or house share situation. However, combined with other elements such as joint credit card debt and subscription services in both names, it can make for a stronger case. Even contractor invoices for home improvements on a shared property can function as proof.
Utilizing Your Professionals
Gathering evidence is not something it’s wise to do on your own. There’s a fine line about what is admissible in court and especially surrounding how you acquire it. The last thing you want is to fall afoul of trespassing or privacy laws in your quest to get your alimony requirements reduced or terminated in a fairer way. You should, therefore, seek assistance from experienced professionals.
Your divorce attorney should always be your first port of call in this instance. Provide them with the information you have about your spouse’s new living situation and how you feel this changes the need for alimony. Your lawyer will then be able to provide you with the most appropriate advice. Firstly, they can assess whether you should be pursuing a modification to your payments or an outright termination. They’ll also help you build a strategy around gaining the evidence required for your goals.
In some cases, it may be advisable to utilize a private investigator. Your attorney may have some recommendations in this regard, as such investigators frequently play a role in obtaining evidence that the courts will consider to be admissible. They’re licensed by the state and able to legally perform surveillance and evidence gathering methods that you cannot. It is the quality and admissibility of this evidence that can give you and your attorney the best chance to prove cohabitation in court and reduce — or stop — your payments.
Call The Family Law Professionals Men Trust (813) 415-3510
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We are uniquely positioned to assist our clients with the challenges men face in Florida’s court system. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.