More than a few Florida alimony recipients have lost their initial alimony award when their ex-spouse proved to the court that the alimony recipient was participating in a supportive relationship with another person. Generally speaking, the court will reduce or terminate a former spouse’s alimony if a supportive relationship with a third party is found to exist.
Recently, the Second District addressed a twist on the supportive relationship angle and looked at whether or not the fact that a former spouse shared his or her home with a male tenant was enough to show “cohabitation with a male.” In this specific case, the parties’ martial settlement agreement called for ending alimony payments to the former wife if she cohabitated with a male.
The former husband wanted to terminate the former wife’s alimony because his former wife had a tenant for the past two years who paid her $400 monthly under a written agreement. The former wife owned a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath townhouse. Her tenant made no other financial contributions at all to the former wife. They slept in separate bedrooms and didn’t have an intimate relationship. They both dated other people and led separate social and work lives in general. They had taken a cruise and two other vacations together but each paid their own expenses and hung out with different people during the vacations.
The trial court didn’t find that a supportive relationship existed, but did find that the former wife was cohabitating with a male and terminated her alimony. The former wife appealed. The Second District decided that consideration of whether or not there was a supportive relationship was unnecessary since the trial court’s determination that none existed was supported by the evidence.
But the Second District disagreed with the trial court that “cohabitation with a male” should be defined so narrowly. The appellate court instead ruled that a finding of cohabitation requires more than “the mere presence of another person under the payee spouse’s roof.” Using judicial common sense, the Court found that the former wife and her tenant “shared a roof, but they did not share their lives.” The trial court was ordered to reinstate the former wife’s alimony.
If you are divorcing or already divorced and want to protect your rights as an alimony payee or payer, consult with a knowledgeable, experienced family law attorney.
Both parties can avoid expensive divorce or post-divorce litigation if marital settlement agreements are properly written in the first place and clearly understood by both spouses.