Can alimony be terminated when a supported spouse lives with a romantic companion?
It is settled law that alimony will terminate upon the remarriage of the recipient. Several years ago our legislature added a new rule permitting the termination of alimony should the recipient cohabit with a romantic companion for a period of 90 or more consecutive days.
But what if a two people live together for 85 days, then separate for 5 days, then resume cohabitation for 85 days, and so forth and so on?
This issue was addressed last week by the South Carolina Court of Appeals in the matter of Moore v Moore. Ms. Moore was in a romantic relationship with her boyfriend, had been divorced from her husband and had been receiving alimony for about 10 years. Testimony at trial established that boyfriend had moved property into Ms. Moore’s home, was romantically involved with her, his daughter stayed in a separate bedroom on occasion, and he stayed overnight a lot, but he denied he was living there. But former husband was not able to provide proof that his ex wife’s boyfriend was living with his ex wife for more than 90 consecutive days and the trial court denied his request to terminate his alimony obligation.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and reasoned as follows: “While it is true Husband did not present proof that Wife cohabited with a paramour for a continuous period of 90 days, contrary to the family court we find he did present testimony that Wife intentionally separated from Erickson to avoid the 90-day requirement.”
As such, in spite of lack of evidence of a 90 day period of continuous cohabitation, courts now have the ability to look to the intent of the parties: If it appears that two people are living together in a romantic relationship in excess of 90 days, our courts will not concern themselves with temporary separations deemed designed to thwart the statute.