Termination of Alimony based on “Cohabitation” under NJ's "new" Alimony Reform Act - a balancing act between dating and cohabitating for alimony termination purposes.
A Superior Court Judge in Morristown must decide that issue in the case of a Mendham Township man who is seeking to terminate his alimony obligation to his former wife. She lives in a separate house in Mendham Township and has a boyfriend, who she says lives elsewhere. Her ex-husband insists they are, in effect, cohabitating as defined under New Jersey’s new Alimony Reform Act.
William and Yvonne Kloehn, both now in their 50s, were divorced in 2007 after 22 years of marriage and he has been paying alimony to her ever since.
Following the enactment of New Jersey's Alimony Reform Act, William Kloehn has been pressing his battle to terminate alimony, because his ex-wife has a boyfriend and he believes that their relationship constitutes a “cohabitation style relationship” under NJ's new law and therefore he should no longer have to pay alimony.
Yvonne, says the pair have been dating regularly since 2008 and see each other about three times a week but maintain separate residences and don't share household chores or finances, so she is not engaged in a cohabitation style relationship and should continue to receive her alimony.
Under the new Alimony Reform Act, the definition of "cohabitation" has been expanded and proof of a cohabitation style relationship include:
1. intertwined finances; which includes payment of expenses by the wife for the benefit of the boyfriend or the payment of expenses by the boyfriend for the benefit of the wife or a combination of both;
2. sharing of living expenses; which reduces the expenses being incurred by the wife and making her less financially dependent on the former husbands support payments;
3. sharing of household chores, which reflect further evidence of a “marital style” relationship;
4. Recognition of the relationship in the couple's family and social circles. Again, if a couple hold themselves out to the world as if they are married and engaged in a marital style setting, evidence of “cohabitation”; and
5. If the above elements are present, even if the wife and her boyfriend are not living together full time, under the new law, the court can now find that they are still engaged in a cohabitation stype relationship and modify or terminate the alimony obligation.
In the matter pending in Morris County, the former husband claims that his former wife and her boyfriend have held themselves out to the world as a marital type couple and he has produced a public Internet post in which Yvonne Kloehn and her boyfriend announced they had joined the Park Avenue Club in Florham Park together, as a couple, The former husband also claims that photos, emails, text messages and shared vacations further support a claim of "cohabitation" under the new Act.
Wife’s boyfriend has also filed certified statements with the court claiming that he lives with his disabled brother in a separate residence and prefers having his "own space," and is not engaged in a cohabitation relationship with Wife. And the former wife has filed certifications with the court also stating that she owns her own house, pays all of her own bills and similarly is not engaged in a cohabitation setting.
The lines are clearly drawn and the court is faced with a setting where the former wife says that she is simply dating and that her boyfriend sleeps over on occasion. The former husband says that the relationship is significantly greater and even though they are not living together full time, they are cohabitating under the new statutory definition and his support obligation should end.
Judge Byrne said she expects to issue a written decision sometime soon.