Normally, when a paying spouse provides evidence demonstrating that their former spouse may be cohabiting in a marriage- like relationship, the Trial Court schedules a trial in order to determine whether there is in fact cohabitation; and, if so, whether the economic benefit from the cohabitation eliminates or reduces the former spouse’s need for alimony. However, Brian G. Paul convinced the Appellate Division that a Trial Court Judge was correct when she deviated from normal course and terminated our client’s alimony obligation on the basis of his former wife’s cohabitation, without first requiring the parties to participate in a trial.
In Proctor v. Proctor, the parties were divorced in 1998. At the time of the divorce, the Wife was earning $13,900, and was awarded alimony of $100 per week. The marital lifestyle consisted of the family of four (4) living on $69,000 per year of income. In support of his motion to terminate alimony, our client provided evidence demonstrating that his former spouse had been engaged in a marriage-like relationship since at least 2005. Specifically, he provided copies of public records showing that she and her paramour jointly owned, with rights of survivorship, a condominium in Florida that they purchased for $460,000 without a mortgage. He further provided evidence showing the couple had several joint bank accounts; took expensive vacations together; and lived together in a second residence in New Jersey. On the basis of this evidence, our client argued that given the economic benefit associated with the cohabitation, his former Wife no longer had a need for alimony from him in order to live reasonably comparable to the marital lifestyle.
In response to the motion, the former Wife admitted that she had been cohabiting since 1999, but claimed she still had a need for alimony in order to live reasonably comparable to the marital lifestyle. Despite that claim, however, the former’ wife’s case information statement showed that she now earned $30,000 per year (versus the $13,900 at the time of the divorce), and that she was receiving an additional $10,800 of annual pension income from our client’s defined benefit pension that was in pay status. Besides the $33,100 per year increase in income, the former’ Wife’s case information statement further showed that she now had the use of two residences (one in Florida and one in New Jersey), whereas she only had one residence at the time of the divorce. Finally, her case information statement claimed that she only contributed $600 per year towards the parties’ vacations, leading to the ineluctable conclusion that her paramour was financing all of the extravagant vacations that our client alleged she had been enjoying
Because the former wife admitted to the cohabitation, the sole issue in dispute was whether the cohabitation had eliminated her need for alimony. The Appellate Division agreed with Brian that the former wife had failed to demonstrate, even on a prima facie basis, that she still had a need for alimony, and therefore there was no need to subject the parties to an expensive and time consuming trial. Accordingly, the Trial Court’s decision was affirmed in its entirety.
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