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Does the Cohabitation Provision of the Alimony Reform Act Apply Retroactively?

At the end of July 2016, in Brumleave v. Ouellette, the Appeals Court decided the issue of whether a petitioner could seek a modification of alimony based solely on his ex Wife's cohabitation. 

At the end of July 2016, in Brumleave v. Ouellette, the Appeals Court decided the issue of whether a petitioner could seek a modification of alimony based solely on his ex Wife's cohabitation. While the Alimony Reform Act of 2011 allows for modification and termination of alimony should the recipient cohabitate for a period of 3 months or more, this provision does not apply retroactively. In other words, because the parties entered into their Separation Agreement prior to the Alimony Reform Act taking effect in 2012, the ex-husband cannot rely on it when seeking that his alimony order be modified or terminated. Instead, he has to show that a material change in circumstances occurred, that would warrant such a modification. For example, the Petitioner could show that due to his ex-Wife's cohabitation, her financial needs had decreased materially. Unfortunately for the Petitioner, the Wife was already cohabitating at the time that the alimony order was initially set, and her income subsequently decreased when child support terminated.

As such, the Appeals Court held that it was improper for the trial judge to reduce the Petitioner's alimony obligation from $1,000 to $550 per week.

The payment of alimony and whether it makes sense in a particular case is a complex issue worth speaking to an experienced attorney about. More and more information and guidance is being provided by the higher courts, which allows attorneys to better inform their clients. For this reason, it is worthwhile to speak with an attorney about your alimony questions, whether you are going through the divorce process or are seeking a modification of a prior judgment.



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