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Modification of alimony in Connecticut- the effect of cohabitation

By Brian Kaschel of Brian D. Kaschel Law Office posted in Divorce and Family Law on April 15th, 2011.

Alimony in Connecticut can be modified upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances” unless a divorce judgment precludes modification.

The change in circumstances can be a change in the circumstances of either party. The most common scenario I see is a financial change in circumstances of the party obligated to pay the alimony. For example, employment loss or decreased earnings often provide the basis for a modification of alimony. The second most common scenario is a claim that the party receiving alimony is cohabitating.

C.G.S 46b-86b allows a suspension, reduction or termination of alimony upon a showing that the party receiving the alimony is living with another person under circumstances which, the court finds should result in a modification of alimony because the living arrangements cause such a change of circumstances as to alter the financial needs of the party receiving the alimony.

There is a misconception that cohabitation itself provides the basis for a modification. This is not accurate. As shown above the statute sets forth essentially a two-part test:

1) Cohabitation and 2) that because of the cohabitation the person receiving alimony has in essence improved his or her financial position.

The latter prong of the test is typically more difficult to prove. The court will scrutinize the living arrangements and the contributions of each cohabitant to the household and to each other. The analysis is done on a case-by-case basis and is very fact specific.

In addition, if the court finds that the two-part test has been met a termination of alimony is not guaranteed. The court may either suspend the alimony order or reduce the order. Again, this is a case-by-case decision.