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Custody & Support Modifications

Cohabitation Could Affect Spousal Support Payments

It is becoming more common and socially acceptable these days for unmarried couples to live together. While this generally does not pose much of an issue in a couple's daily lives, cohabitation could have a significant impact on them if one partner is receiving spousal support from a previous marriage.

Under California law, when a spouse receiving spousal support begins cohabitating with a partner he or she is not married to, it is possible that a modification or termination of the spousal support could be ordered by the court if the court determines that the receiving spouse's circumstances have changed. There is a rebuttable presumption that cohabitation decreases the receiving spouse's need for spousal support.

Cohabitation can occur between the receiving spouse and a nonmarital partner, even if the parties do not hold themselves out to the public as being married. Moreover, if the paying spouse subsequently marries or enters a romantic relationship, the income of the supporting spouse's partner will not be taken into consideration when it comes to a spousal support modification.

So, if a person is receiving spousal support after a divorce, they may want to keep in mind that if they cohabitate with a new romantic partner their ex-spouse could pursue a modification or termination of spousal support. Since some people will find that the modification or termination of spousal support based on cohabitation could have a major impact on their financial well-being, they may want to consider their legal options for retaining their spousal support payments. And, conversely, if a person is paying spousal support to an ex-spouse and learns that their ex-spouse is cohabitating with another individual, that person may want to determine what their legal rights are with regards to reducing or ending spousal support payments.