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New Jersey Court Rules Sleepovers Aren't Cohabitation for Alimony Purposes

A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that regular sleepover don't constitute "cohabitation" for alimony purposes.

The case involved Eric and Robin Gould, who were married in 1995 and divorced in 2009.

Eric Gould's divorce settlement requires him to pay alimony "in gradually decreasing amounts until 2019."

The agreement also says:

In the event of Wife's cohabitation, the Husband may, at his option, make all appropriate applications to the Court to have alimony terminated in accordance with the then existing law of this State.

Eric Gould argued that his alimony obligation should be terminated because his wife was living with her boyfriend, a man identified as "M.J."

He claimed that M.J. maintained only a "sham" separate residence but actually spent most of his time at Robin Gould's house, kept his clothes there, helped with the children and chores, took vacations with the family, and received mail at the address.

Eric Gould hired a private investigator to watch Robin Gould's house on six occasions. The investigator found that M.J. had stayed over on three nights when the Gould's children were with their father, and was at the home for part of the night on other occasions.

Robin Gould confirmed that she and M.J. were involved in a romantic relationship, that he vacationed with her and her children, and that he kept mostly exercise clothes at her house. She said that he took the trash out and helped with the children. However, she noted that she and M.J. had separate finances and he paid none of her household bills.

She denied that they were cohabitating.

In the lower court case that led to the appellate ruling, the court said that the fact that Robin Gould and M.J. "spend considerable time together, as people in romantic relationships often do, is not sufficient to establish a prima facie case that they share a marital-type relationship."

According to the court, cohabitation occurs when there is "an intimate relationship in which the couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage," including but not limited to "living together, intertwined finances such as joint bank accounts, sharing living expenses and household chores, and recognition of the relationship in the couple's social and family circle."

The court noted that cohabitation requires "stability, permanency and mutual interdependence."

Further, the court held that "cohabitation is a changed circumstance only if coupled with economic changes resulting from [it]. The economic benefit to either cohabitor must be sufficiently material to justify" a change in alimony.

If you have questions about alimony or other family law issues in New Jersey, contact a New Jersey family law attorney at the Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC.

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