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Spousal maintenance and "co-habitation"

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Alimony is an evolving area of family law, for a variety of reasons. For starters, alimony - more commonly called "spousal support" or "spousal maintenance" these days - is usually highly unpopular with the party that ends up being required to pay it. This legal obligation can be quite a burden for someone to pay in addition to other divorce-related expenses, such as legal fees and child support. However, any of our Maryland readers who keep up with news from around the country are probably aware of the fact that many states are beginning to re-evaluate their current alimony laws to see if they need to be modernized.

One area of contention noted in a recent article is the issue of a when a former spouse begins "co-habitation" with another individual post-divorce. States deal with this issue in a variety of ways, with no real consensus on which way is best. Some will terminate an alimony order if the receiving spouse is shown to be co-habitating, others will reduce the alimony and others don't care at all.

Which way is best is a decision best left to state-level legislators. However, one area that is creating some controversy is the means by which co-habitation can be proven. Previous posts here have warned of the danger of Facebook posts being used in divorce, child custody or child support decisions - and now it appears that we can add alimony decisions to that list as well. Some even say that cellphone records could be used to help prove co-habitation. And why not? The point is that moving on after a divorce is great, but many people will need to realize that starting a new relationship could have consequences on a person's financial situation.

Alimony is usually based on a variety of factors, including the spouse's standard of living, income and what type of payment will be required to help with living expenses. Alimony is separate from child support, as the two payments are intended for two different areas of financial support. For any of our readers who are involved in an alimony agreement, it may be wise to be aware that the potential changes to the laws throughout the country may enter the discussion in Maryland as well at some point.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Cohabitation and Alimony - Do the Current Laws Make Sense?" Diane L. Danois, July 8, 2013

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