Spouses generally live in separate homes after they end their relationship. Although former spouses would likely prefer to move on after a divorce, each person's living arrangements may become relevant to ongoing legal issues between the two parties. In particular, cohabitation with a new partner may affect alimony or child support in Georgia. Accordingly, an ex-spouse should understand the rights and obligations established by Georgia state laws regarding post-divorce issues.
Modification of Alimony After Divorce
After divorce, one party may need to pay alimony to the other. The divorce court may award temporary alimony for a limited time or permanent, ongoing alimony. Georgia state laws allow either spouse to request a new court order, known as a modification, that would increase or decrease the amount of alimony. The ex-spouse paying alimony may be able to obtain a modification if the recipient's financial circumstances have changed. For example, an ex-spouse may request a modification and tell the court that the recipient's financial needs have decreased because of new living arrangements. The recipient's expenses may decrease after a move to a new home or a move-in by a new roommate, among other reasons.
Cohabitation and Alimony
Georgia alimony laws specifically allow a state court to terminate permanent alimony through a modification if the recipient voluntarily cohabits with a new partner. State law defines cohabitation as a "meretricious relationship" — one that includes intimate relations — through which the former spouse and a new partner live together. A former spouse can have a meretricious relationship without remarrying as long as the relationship includes shared living arrangements. Georgia law specifically notes the sex of the new partner does not matter in legal actions regarding the termination of alimony.
Lack of Proof Regarding Cohabitation
Georgia state laws allow an ex-spouse to request an end to alimony because of the recipient's cohabitation with a new partner. However, if the ex-spouse paying alimony cannot provide evidence of the recipient's new living arrangements, the court may decline to grant the modification. If the former spouse paying alimony asks for a modification but the court does not grant the request, state law includes consequences for the spouse who requested the change. In particular, state law requires payment of the legal fees incurred by the recipient to defend against the modification request in court.
Cohabitation and Child Support
Parents often receive child support orders during divorce. Although Georgia child support laws do not specifically prohibit a parent from living with a new partner, a parent's living arrangements can sometimes affect a court order for child support. The state court must calculate child support based on state guidelines, which in part consider each parent's income. If a parent's living arrangements include providing a home for children from another relationship, expenses related to raising those children may reduce the parent's calculated income for the purpose of determining child support. In addition, if a parent begins to live with a new partner after receiving the current order for child support, the other parent may be able to request a review of the case. Georgia permits a review at any time if the other parent informs the court about a substantial change in circumstances since the court issued the previous support order.