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Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C.
630-472-9700Available 24/7

Cohabitation and Spousal Support

Posted on in Spousal Maintenance

 Illinois divorce lawyerCohabitation is a legal concept that has been around for as long as marriage, but it has only recently begun to acquire legal significance in the last two or three decades, at least in the United States. Cohabitating is done by couples who may want to try out living together or see how they function as a unit before taking the plunge into marriage and is not a legal status. However, there are certain legal facts that one should still be aware of if they decide to cohabitate, mostly to do with support from a previous marriage.

Not True in All States

In many states, orders for maintenance can generally be modified or terminated upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances” - for example, if an obligor loses their job and takes a new one that only pays enough to put a roof over their head, they might ask for maintenance to be terminated or at least put in abeyance because they lack the money to pay it. This is, however, an extremely unusual situation - most of the time, spousal support can only reliably be terminated upon the recipient’s remarriage or on the death of one spouse.

In Illinois, this is not actually the case. While orders can be modified or terminated in the same manner as in other states (the ‘substantial change in circumstances’ test), there are a handful of situations in which spousal support will terminate statutorily (that is, without having to argue whether or not it should). The most common of these situations, arguably, is when the obligee begins to cohabitate with someone, or as it is put in Illinois law, establishes a relationship with another person on a “resident, continuing conjugal basis.”

Am I Cohabitating?

It can be difficult to determine whether or not a relationship constitutes cohabitation, especially since Illinois law holds that there need not be a sexual component for two people to be cohabitating - for example, the Illinois Supreme Court held in In re Marriage of Sappington that a woman and an impotent man were cohabitating even though no sexual relationship existed between the two. If a court holds that two people are cohabitating, spousal support ends because, in theory, the financial support is no longer necessary.

A court will assess multiple different factors in order to determine whether a relationship is “resident, continuing, [and] conjugal.” Some include the length of the relationship, how intertwined the two people’s financial affairs are, whether or not the two people spend holidays and vacations together, whether or not they live together, and many other issues that speak to a relationship that provides support. If enough factors are present, the court will generally hold that cohabitation is taking place, and spousal support will be terminated.

Enlist Experienced Legal Help

While everyone has the right to move on, doing so before you are able to financially support yourself may wind up being a problem. It is a good idea to ensure that you understand your options before you move ahead with a new relationship. The passionate DuPage County spousal support attorneys at the offices of Kathryn L. Harry & Associates, P.C. can help try to answer your questions. Contact our office today to set up an appointment.



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