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Case Law Review for the Week of May 12, 2014

Quinn v. Quinn, Appellate Division, May 14, 2014 (Unreported Decision): In this appeal from a post-judgment Order from the trial court, in which the trial court found that the Wife had cohabitated thus justifying the elimination of alimony during the period of cohabitation but a resumption of alimony as of the date the cohabitation ended (as opposed to a termination of alimony indefinitely) and in which the trial court permitted the ex-husband to recoup the overpaid alimony and the legal fees awarded through a reduction in future alimony payments, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision. The Appellate Division, relying upon Konzelman v. Konzelman, 158 N.J. 185 (1999) determined that where an enforceable cohabitation agreement provides for termination of alimony, the economic needs of the dependent spouse at the time of termination are not a relevant factor. Thus, the holding of Gayet v. Gayet, 92 N.J. 149 (1983) regarding the economic basis of terminating alimony does not apply where the parties voluntarily and knowingly entered into a settlement that provides for termination of alimony upon cohabitation, and the settlement is determined to be fair and equitable. The Appellate Division, in focusing on the definition of cohabitation, when on to state:

In Konzelman, the Court discussed the meaning of cohabitation, as distinguished from a romance or a dating relationship that might include sexual intimacy and overnight stays. Cohabitation must have "stability, permanence and mutual interdependence," and it occurs when there is "an intimate relationship in which the couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage." Living together and personal intimacy are the most important factors. Additional duties and privileges can include "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 seriousness and duration of the relationship are crucial to finding cohabitation.

Finally, in considering the decision to permit alimony to resume since the cohabitation had ended, as opposed to terminating alimony, the Appellate Court relied upon language in the Konzelman decision which left open the question as to the resumption of alimony upon the termination of cohabitation and found that the trial court's equitable powers justified this determination.

To review your rights with regard to terminating alimony based upon a claim of cohabitation, call a divorce attorney from Miller & Gaudio today.

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