Cohabitation can terminate your Spousal Support Award

Cohabitation with your significant other will end spousal support payments

If there is a provision in your Judgment of Divorce that terminates your right to spousal support payments “upon cohabitation with an unrelated male,” then it’s important you understand how the Michigan courts define “cohabitation.” And the Michigan Court of Appeals recently offered valuable guidance in this respect.

In Hermann v Hermann, Docket No. 306568 (October 16, 2012), the Court determined that a woman seeking alimony payments was not entitled to those payments because she was “cohabitating” with an unrelated male. The Court found that the meaning of “cohabitation” included a relationship where a woman lives with an unrelated male on a permanent and continuous basis for more than one year, stores all of her belongings at the residence, engages in a sexual relationship with him, and relies on him for financial support.

In Hermann, the Court of Appeals relied on Smith v Smith, 278 Mich App 198 (2008), and reaffirmed the validity of the Smith three-prong test to determine “cohabitation.” The Smithtotality-of-the-circumstances test weighs three factors. The first factor is an examination of the woman’s living arrangements with the unrelated male, which considers whether the couple shared a common residence. The second factor examines the couple’s relationship, which takes into account whether the relationship appeared to be permanent. And finally, the Court looks into the couple’s financial arrangements, which examines whether the couple shared expenses, maintained joint property or accounts, and whether one party supports the other.

If after weighing these three factors, the reviewing court determines that the woman is “cohabitating” with an unrelated male, she is no longer entitled to alimony payments if the Judgment contained cohabitation as a terminating circumstance. Thus, it’s important to understand the alimony terms of your Judgment of Divorce.