In a post judgment divorce action, the Court found that the ex-wife was cohabitating with another person, and, therefore, modified the ex-husband’s alimony obligation. Pursuant to the parties’ separation agreement, the husband was obligated to pay to the wife alimony in the amount of $1,300 per month for a period of eight years. The parties agreed that the amount of said alimony could later be modified, however, the duration could not unless the plaintiff remarried. Approximately six and one-half years following the parties’ divorce, the ex-husband filed a motion to modify, claiming that the parties’ financial circumstances had changed substantially and also that the ex-wife was cohabitating with another person as defined in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-86(b).
In reaching its decision, the Court explained that pursuant to General Statutes §46b-86(b), alimony may be modified or terminated upon a showing that the party receiving the periodic alimony is living with another person causing a change of financial circumstances. Where a Court finds that a party is living with another individual, it may modify, reduce, suspend or terminate the payment of alimony if there is a corresponding change in financial circumstances. In other words, in cases involving the cohabitation statute, the threshold predicate for the modification of alimony is lowered to situations where the court finds cohabitation and a change in circumstances so as to alter the needs of the party. Thus, the higher burden required by §46b-86(a), requiring a “substantial change” in circumstances is lowered when there is cohabitation. Once the Court finds both cohabitation and a change in the financial needs of the party receiving alimony, it must then apply the factors enumerated in Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-82 to determine the appropriate amount of support, if any. Those criteria include the needs and financial resources of each party as well as the causes for the dissolution, the age, health, station, occupation, employability and amount and source of income of the parties.
After hearing evidence, the Court found that the ex-wife was indeed living with another man, and, further, that her income and expenses changed due to significant support she was receiving from him in excess of the alimony she was receiving from her ex-husband. In fact, the ex-wife’s income was approximately 10% higher, not taking into consideration regular gifts and payment of living expenses provided by her new partner. Notably, the Court also pointed out that the ex-wife voluntarily moved to Florida to live with her new interest, leaving viable employment in the State of Connecticut and delaying access to her social security benefits. With respect to the ex-husband’s financial circumstances, the Court found that his income was lower than at the time of dissolution, his assets had been depleted and his weekly payments substantially exceeded his income. Based on those findings, the Court modified the wife’s alimony to $1.00 per year until the husband’s obligation terminated under the terms of the original judgment of dissolution or was otherwise subsequently modified by order of the court.
By: Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.
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