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How Living With a New Partner Could Terminate Maintenance Payments

 Posted on November 17, 2020 in Divorce

Wheaton spousal support attorneyAlimony, or spousal maintenance, is thought of as a tool to help newly divorced people adapt from a two-income household to a one-income household. Maintenance is often of special importance for those who get divorced later in life. In many cases, maintenance payments eventually cease, usually after a financial goal or time limit is reached. However, in Illinois and a handful of other states, it can end earlier depending on each spouse’s circumstances. Cohabitating with a new partner after your divorce can have unintended consequences.

A “Substantial Change in Circumstances”

Generally in Illinois, maintenance is granted by the family court or by mutual agreement between the spouses. It will be granted, according to the court, to the spouse who needs it most, based on a number of factors. Some of the most important factors include:

  • Income and debt levels of both spouses

  • Current financial need (at the time of the divorce) and future earning capacity

  • The marital standard of living

  • The duration of the marriage

  • Several other factors relating to each spouse’s ability to earn income and pay bills in the future

It is possible that a court will not order maintenance, if both spouses are fairly equal in financial terms, or if both have roughly equal ability to earn income in the present and future. However, once the maintenance is awarded, it will only end before the agreed-upon time period expires if a “substantial change in circumstances” occurs. By far the most common “substantial change in circumstances” is remarriage, but what many are unaware of is that it also may apply to cohabitation with an unmarried partner.

Terminating Maintenance Based on Cohabitation

Cohabitating is fairly common in adults. The second time around, many people—especially older individuals—want to “try things out” first, and live together before actually getting married again. It is true that if two adults cohabitate in a specific manner, maintenance may be terminated by the ex-spouse or by the court. However, this does not mean that a person who moves in with a traditional roommate or housemate runs the risk of losing their maintenance payment. 

Illinois law states that maintenance payments will be terminated if the spouse receiving maintenance begins to cohabitate with another person on a “resident, continuing, conjugal basis.” The definition of this term is open to interpretation, and Illinois courts use a number of issues in deciding whether or not maintenance may be terminated. It is important to note that under current Illinois law, a “conjugal” relationship does not necessarily have to be sexual. If two people are living together in a way that suggests they are a committed couple—for example, sharing finances, having joint accounts, and taking vacations together—their arrangement may be found to be cohabitation regardless of whether or not the relationship is physically intimate.

Ask a DuPage County Elder Divorce Attorney 

If you are an older individual who has recently gotten a divorce, or you are considering the idea of ending your marriage, it is important to understand the risks of moving in with a new partner. Speak with an experienced Wheaton divorce over 50 lawyer to get the answers you need to the questions you may have. Call Goostree Law Group at 630-634-5050 to schedule a free consultation today.






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