Kentucky Alimony Termination

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Spring Break.  Over the course of mine, I spent some of that time submitting a Brief on the topic of the Termination of Spousal Support or Alimony in Kentucky.

If Family Court orders alimony (or maintenance or spousal support), it may be modified based upon a change in circumstances so substantial and continuing as to render the award unconscionable.  KRS 403.250(1).

Family Court may Order that maintenance terminate at a specific time or under specific conditions.  Otherwise, spousal support ordered by a Family Court Judge terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.  KRS 403.250(2).

Parties to a divorce may contract for alimony, and, in doing so, may select the terms under which maintenance terminates.  KRS 403.180(6).  The most frequently litigated condition which terminates spousal support is “cohabitation”.  But, what is it?

The most familiar definition of cohabitation was set out by the Supreme Court of Kentucky in Combs v. Combs, 787 S.W.2d 260 (Ky. 1990).  The unanimous panel opined that:

“While each case stands on its own, the elements to consider are:  1. Duration — It should never be the intention of the Court to allow for maintenance reduction based upon casual “overnights” or dating. A showing of substantially changed circumstances under KRS 403.250(1) based upon cohabitation, necessarily involves proof of some permanency or long-term relationship.  2. Economic Benefit — The relationship must be such to place the cohabitating spouse in a position which avails that spouse of a substantial economic benefit. The scope and extent of the economic benefit should be closely scrutinized. If the “cohabitation” does not change the cohabitating spouse’s economic position, then reductions should not be permitted.  3. Intent of the Parties — Does it appear that the cohabitating spouse is avoiding re-marriage to keep maintenance? Does it appear from the circumstances that the cohabitating parties intend to establish a “lasting relationship?”  4. Nature of the Living Arrangements — Does it appear that the cohabitation is merely a space sharing situation or is there one common household?  5. Nature of the Financial Arrangements — Is there a “pooling of assets?” Is there actually a joint or team effort in the living arrangement? Who pays the bills and how are they paid?  6. Likelihood of a Continued Relationship — Does it appear that the relationship will continue in the future? Do the parties intend the relationship to continue indefinitely?”.  Id at 262-63.

What happens when there is ambiguity in the term “cohabitation” in a contract or Settlement Agreement regarding the termination of alimony?  Then, we look to the Opinion in Cook v. Cook.  The Opinion in Cook is not unanimous, but distinguishes itself from Combs because the parties entered into an Agreement which contemplated cohabitation as an event which would terminate, but not reduce, spousal support.  Cook v. Cook, 798 S.W.2d 955, (Ky. 1990).  The majority defined cohabitation (sufficient to terminate support under an Agreement) as “To live together as husband and wife. The mutual assumption of those marital rights, duties, and obligations which are usually manifested by married people, including but not necessarily dependent on sexual relations”.  Id. at 957.  The Court went on to opine that the parties must live in the same household, assume the obligation to pay the household bills or personal expenses of the other, and move household furnishings from one house to the other.   Id. at 957.

This is an always shifting area of Family Law.  Thank you for reading my post and allowing me to convert some of my “work on vacation” time to some other purpose.

If your family is going through a change, please feel free to give me a call.  Also, please feel free to learn more at jrlloydlaw.com or thelouisvilledivorceattorney.com or thelouisvilledivorcelawyer.com if you are not ready to talk.  Thanks for reading.