The Impact of Cohabitation on Spousal Support
If your Judgment of Divorce contains a provision that terminates your right to spousal support or alimony payments upon cohabitation with a paramour or an unrelated person of the opposite gender, then it’s imperative that you understand how the Michigan legally defines cohabitation. The Michigan Court has offered valuable guidance in this respect.
In the case of Herrmann v Herrmann, the Court determined that a woman was not entitled to her spousal support payments because she was “cohabitating” with an unrelated male. The Court defined “cohabitation” to include any relationship where a woman lives with an unrelated male on a permanent and continuous basis for greater than one year, stores all of his or her belongings at the residence, engages in a sexual relationship with the other, and relies on him or her for financial support.
In Hermann, the Court of Appeals relied on Smith v Smith, and reaffirmed the validity of the Smith three-prong test to determine whether “cohabitation” has or is occurring. The Smith totality-of-the-circumstances test weighs three factors. The first factor is an examination of the support recipient’s living arrangements with the unrelated person, including the consideration of whether the couple share a common residence. The second factor scrutinizes the couple’s relationship and considers whether the relationship appears to be permanent. And finally, the Court looks into the couple’s financial arrangements, examining whether the couple share expenses, maintain joint property and/or support one another.
After weighing these three factors, if the court determines that the support recipient is “cohabitating” with an unrelated person, he or she is no longer entitled to spousal support payments if the Judgment prescribes cohabitation as a terminating circumstance. Thus, it’s important to understand the alimony terms of your Judgment of Divorce.