How Cohabitating with Romantic Partners Changes Spousal Support / by Cassandra Hearn

After divorce, it is natural and best for both parties to look to their future and move on. This is true even when the former spouses remain somewhat bound together by an order of spousal support. California law emphasizes that supported spouses should work and become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. California Family Code §4320 establishes the factors to be used when making an award of spousal support. So what if after the divorce, the receiving spouse starts to reside with a new boyfriend or girlfriend?  This is a common issue, and cohabitation can definitely impact spousal support.


California Family Code §4323 states that unless the parties have otherwise agreed in writing, “there is a rebuttable presumption . . . of decreased need for spousal support if the supported party is cohabitating with a non-marital partner.”  The statute goes on to state that if this is the case and the court determines the supported partner’s circumstances have accordingly changed, then spousal support may be modified or terminated. The law does not take the new girlfriend or boyfriend’s income into account directly. Rather, the issue is whether the former spouse’s circumstances have changed such that he or she no longer requires support from the paying spouse. The law also includes same-sex relationships, and specifically states that support can be terminated even if the new couple does not marry or act as though they are married.  


In these cases, it is up to the spouse requesting a reduction or termination of spousal support to make the showing that the supported spouse is actually cohabitating. This can be problematic, as due to the divorce, the supporting spouse may no longer have direct access to the supported spouse’s financial documents, home, or daily plans. Luckily, California law allows parties to conduct post-judgment discovery to learn about these facts.  Sometimes the inquiry can start simply with keeping a close eye on social media and preserving your findings.


We have extensive experience assisting our clients with cases involving termination or modification of spousal support. Call us today at 619-800-0384 for an appointment so we can discuss your economic situation.