Alimony termination occurs either when a former spouse dies or when the court orders alimony to end (as stated in the divorce decree). In many states, alimony may also terminate when the recipient remarries, enters a domestic partnership, or, in some cases, cohabitates with a new partner.

Alimony termination with remarriage and cohabitation

When the recipient spouse remarries, he or she enters a new marital partnership. Alimony terminates because the former spouse shouldn't be expected to support this new partnership. In rare cases, alimony may continue after remarriage if agreed to in the divorce settlement. If the recipient's new marriage ends, alimony from the first marriage can't be reinstated.

If the supporting spouse remarries, though he or she still pays alimony. However, the amount may be reduced if the marriage produces a child.

The recipient's cohabitation with a new partner isn't sufficient grounds for alimony termination- the relationship must also provide an economic advantage. If the recipient and his or her partner have a relationship similar to a marriage and share a home, bank account, and household expenses, the court may modify alimony. Generally, courts won't terminate alimony in cases of cohabitation because there is no financial obligation between the cohabitants if they break up.

Other factors that affect alimony termination

Alimony may terminate at the supporting spouse's retirement if he or she retires at 65 or is forced to retire early. The supporting spouse's retirement benefits may act as income replacement for the recipient if divided appropriately in the divorce settlement.

If the supporting spouse declares bankruptcy, he or she is still responsible for alimony payments.

Alimony is usually seen as a temporary arrangement with an end date agreed to in the divorce settlement. This alimony is referred to as rehabilitative alimony, and is designed to provide assistance until the recipient can be self-supporting. A spouse may be awarded permanent alimony if age, disability, or other factors prevent him or her from becoming economically independent.

If you seek alimony termination

You can petition the court for alimony termination at any time, but you must show a substantial change in circumstances for your application to be considered. In cases of cohabitation, you must show the new relationship is fully supporting the recipient. This may be difficult to prove if your former spouse disputes your claim.

If there are terms in your divorce settlement outlining conditions for alimony termination, the court may still want proof of a recipient's financial independence before making a decision.

Additional resources:

American Bar Association Family Law Guide

Divorce Source: Alimony Termination Based on Cohabitation

Related Legal Guides:

Paying Alimony

Alimony Modification

Alimony Pendente Lite

Legal Separation

Understanding Divorce

Divorce Settlement

No-Fault Divorce