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Alimony- Cohabitation as a Bar to Getting It in PA

By Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC posted in Alimony on Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alimony, or support from one spouse to another, may be barred by the requesting party's cohabitation with another.

By Attorney Alyssa H. Knisely, Divorce Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

As I have pointed out in my prior blog article ( Alimony- What is it?), the purpose of alimony is not to reward one party and to punish the other, but rather to ensure that the reasonable needs of the person who is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment, are met. Alimony is based upon reasonable needs in accordance with the lifestyle and standard of living established by the parties during the marriage, as well as the payor's ability to pay. Moreover, alimony following a divorce is a secondary remedy and is available only where economic justice and the reasonable needs of the parties cannot be achieved by way of an equitable distribution award and development of an appropriate employable skill.

Cohabitation Is a Bar to Alimony- Even if it occurs only for a defined period.

However, as the PA Divorce Code points out, "cohabitation" is a bar to alimony. 23 Pa.C.S. § 3706. Cohabitation is defined not necessarily by a specific meaning, but what circumstances exist: "cohabitation may be shown by evidence of financial, social, and sexual interdependence, by a sharing of the same residence, and by other means." Moran v. Moran, 2003 PA Super 455, 839 A.2d 1091, 2003 Pa. Super. LEXIS 4103 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2003). In Moran, the wife was denied alimony when she began residing with a man after separation but before the entry of final decree. There was evidence of living together, sharing bank accounts, spending money on food together, and sharing of expenses. Such, the court noted, was a showing of "interdependence" and precluded an award of alimony. She countered by arguing that they recently broke up before the final master's hearing and he only wanted her for her money. The court was unpersuaded.

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