Cohabitation and Alimony in California

Wed 4th January, 2023 Family Law

When you consider whether you feel it is in your best interests to pursue a divorce, there are likely a number of issues that come to mind. You may wonder how property will be divided and whether you will get enough time with your children. Alimony (or spousal support) is another item you may wonder about. Whether you believe you may be the one required to pay alimony, or you think you may be the person supported, a court order requiring the payment of alimony can affect your quality of life greatly – for good or for bad.

What happens when you or your ex begin living with someone? This article discusses the potential ramifications that may apply to you if you or your ex receives payments on a court-ordered spousal support agreement.

California Law

The rules surrounding cohabitation and spousal support agreements are found in California Family Code 4323. The essence of the law is that there is a presumption (though it is rebuttable) that the need to be supported by a former spouse is decreased if the supported person begins cohabitating with a nonmarital partner. If the court finds that the person’s circumstances have changed since the spousal support order was considered and put into effect, the court can modify or terminate the spousal support order.

What Counts as Cohabitation?

While the law does not strictly define all aspects of the rules, the California code does give us a good idea of how cohabitation is established. The people living together do not need to be spouses for this section of the code to apply. The term “nonmarital partner” also suggests that a strictly platonic roommate is not necessarily what the law is considering either. The law suggests a partnership or interpersonal relationship. If you live with roommates, this code will not necessarily apply, though you should be on notice that it might. What the law is clear on is that if the court finds a change in circumstances, then the court may modify or terminate the support order.

For example, a person who was a homemaker in a townhouse on the bay with no outside job pre-divorce would have a compelling case that they are entitled to some form of alimony post-divorce. However, if the former spouse later brings to the court’s attention the fact that this same person is now living with a new romantic partner or in an apartment with several roommates, the court could find that they do not require the same level of financial support. It is important to note that the code language specifies that the income of the nonmarital partner is not to be considered when determining whether to modify a spousal support agreement.

How is Cohabitation Established?

There are many ways to establish cohabitation before the court. Some options include asking the supported spouse and/or their cohabitator to admit to the cohabitation in court. Potential consequences for lying to the court (perjury) are likely much more dire than a modified or terminated spousal support agreement. However, other avenues exist as well, including subpoenas for neighbors, landlords, or friends, or potentially hiring a private investigator to gather evidence of the cohabitation.

Contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler

If you are considering a divorce, make sure you speak with a knowledgeable, experienced divorce attorney at the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler. We will put our experience to work for you and help you to achieve the best outcome possible.


California Family Code § 4323 (2021) :: 2021 California Code :: US Codes and Statutes :: US Law :: Justia

Premarital Cohabitation Is Still Associated With Greater Odds of Divorce | Institute for Family Studies (