The divorce is final. All the judgments are entered, the custody battles are over, and the maintenance payments begin. You may be eager to begin moving on with your life, possibly finding someone new to spend time with. If you depend on your spousal maintenance payments though, you must be careful if things begin to get serious. Your desire to live with your significant other could mean living without your ex-spouse’s help.
Illinois is one of many states in which cohabitation will end spousal maintenance payments from an ex. The idea of spousal maintenance is to ease the less financially secure spouse in the divorce into life as a single person. Generally, spouses will make different amounts of money, and the lower earner in the relationship will need time to adjust. Maintenance payments are largely in the discretion of the family law judge, and different factors are taken into account. Amongst these are previous standard of living, level of income in relation to the income of the spouse, level of education as compared to the spouse, and others.
The prevailing thought on cohabitation is that two people living in the same domicile are each contributing to the living arrangement. Therefore, it would be unfair to make an ex continue to pay maintenance if the spouse is already receiving support from a live-in romantic partner. The logic is undeniable, but what constitutes “cohabitation” for the purpose of spousal maintenance?
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that maintenance will be terminated “if the party receiving maintenance cohabits with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis.” From the plain language of the Act, this would mean that, if the party receiving maintenance were living with another as a married couple would, maintenance would be terminated.
Illinois courts have interpreted the law in just this way. The Illinois Supreme Court has stated that two people must be in “a husband- and-wife-like relationship,” and that the family law judge must look to “the unique nature of each interpersonal relationship” when deciding if cohabitation exists. In one court, cohabitation was found when a boyfriend would often stay overnight at the apartment of the party receiving maintenance, even though he had his own residence. The court’s decision was based on the length of the relationship, vacations taken together, and other factors. The judge must take every aspect of the relationship into consideration, and the judge’s decision will not be questioned if it was not against the manifest weight of the evidence (unless it is obviously wrong, it will stand).
DuPage County Family Law Lawyers
Maintenance is an important part of the divorce process, and it is by nature fluid. Needs change, circumstances change, and maintenance needs to be able to change as well. Post-judgment modification is a real possibility for maintenance payments, either up or down. An experienced Illinois family law attorney can guide you through the process and help you get the results you want. Contact Sullivan Taylor & Gumina today for a consultation.