Cohabitation after Separation and Termination of Alimony

11 Apr 2010

Cathy Hunt, a partner in the family law firm of Gailor Hunt Jenkins Davis & Taylor, a Raleigh, North Carolina divorce firm educates men and women who are separated about the legal effects of living together with a third party after separation.


Because cohabitation after separation may affect your right to receive, or your obligation to pay alimony in North Carolina, it is important to learn how cohabitation is defined in North Carolina law. Under North Carolina law, if the court determines that a dependent spouse receiving alimony under an order or judgment is cohabiting, the court is statutorily required to terminate that spouse’s rights to future alimony payments.

The alimony statute defines cohabitation as “the act of two adults dwelling together continuously and habitually in a private heterosexual relationship, even if it is not solemnized by marriage, or a homosexual relationship.” The statute goes on to state that “cohabitation is evidenced by the voluntary mutual assumption of those marital rights, duties and obligations which are usually manifested by married people, and which include, but are not necessarily dependent on, sexually relations.”

The question of whether someone is engaged in cohabitation within the meaning of the alimony statute depends on the particular facts of each case.  In determining whether a dependent spouse is cohabiting, courts may consider a variety of factors, including (but not necessarily limited to) the number of overnights spent together and whether the sexual relationship is monogamous. Other relevant factors that courts may consider include: whether the dependent spouse and third party each have a key to the other’s residence, whether personal property, such as cars are kept at the same residence, whether living expenses are shared,  whether the dependent spouse and the third party grocery shop for one another, eat meals together, do yard work, walk the other’s dog, share or trade use of each other’s cars, attend family functions together and or otherwise engage in other day to day activities with one another that would be considered similar to those of married persons.
If you believe your rights or obligations to receive or pay alimony may be impacted due to issues of cohabitation, you should contact the lawyers of Gailor Hunt Jenkins Davis & Taylor to discuss the particular facts of your situation and address these issues.

Contributor: Cathy C. Hunt - Cathy Hunt is a partner in the Raleigh, North Carolina Family Law Firm of Gailor Hunt Jenkins Davis & Taylor, PLLC.  For more information contact the Raleigh, North Carolina Family Law Firm of Gailor Hunt Jenkins Davis & Taylor, PLLC at 1101 Haynes Street, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27604, Tel: 919-832-8488 or go to www.gailorwallishunt.com.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended as a general guide and is not to be used as legal advice by Gailor Hunt Jenkins Davis & Taylor, PLLC. Whether or not you may be entitled to take action in regard to the information addressed in this article can only be determined after a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of your case.