Each state enacted its own laws about alimony, otherwise known as spousal support or maintenance, but as a general rule, spouses are expected to financially support each other, and this obligation may extend beyond the divorce.
Spousal support is not automatic in a divorce. The decision to award alimony has much to do with: 1) the length of a marriage, 2) each spouse's income and assets, 3) a spouse's need for support, and 4) the better off spouse's ability to pay support.
When is alimony terminated?
Generally, alimony is terminated when a court order says it ends, when the receiving spouse remarries, or when either spouse dies. While alimony payments ordinarily cease when the receiving spouse remarries, if there is a written agreement stating otherwise, the payments may continue in spite of a new marriage.
What happens if a receiving spouse moves in with a new sweetheart, or becomes engaged? It depends on what state you live in.
- In some states, alimony ends when the receiving spouse remarries. In that case, the receiving spouse could continue receiving payments, even if they are living with their new fiancé.
- In many states, the court will reduce or terminate alimony as long as the cohabitation decreases the receiving spouse's need for financial support.
- In some states, alimony terminates as long as the receiving spouse moves in with a new partner, regardless if the cohabitation affected their economic need for support.
- Other states do not terminate alimony, even if the receiving spouse moves in with a new boyfriend or girlfriend.
In California and Tennessee, the courts assume that a recipient's need for support is reduced if he or she begins cohabitating, thus if you move in with a new partner in one of these states, your spousal support will be reduced or terminated. But in Arkansas, you have to have children with your new partner before your alimony can be terminated.
To learn how cohabiting with a new partner affects alimony in your state, reach out to a family law attorney in our directory!