How to Terminate Alimony Due to Cohabitation in Ohio

by Beverly Bird

It may seem unfair to continue paying alimony after your ex begins a new live-in relationship, but this sometimes occurs in Ohio. Your ability to terminate alimony, called spousal support in Ohio, depends a great deal on the terms of your divorce decree and whether you can prove the state's legal definition of cohabitation.

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Divorce Decree

Spousal support is only modifiable in Ohio under certain conditions. Your divorce decree must state one of two things: (1) Ohio retains jurisdiction after your divorce is final, or (2) the alimony award is modifiable. Modifiable means you can have it terminated if there is a change of circumstance. If your decree doesn’t expressly state your alimony is modifiable or an Ohio court may continue to hear issues relating to your decree, you’re probably out of luck. Check your decree and confer with an attorney if you're unsure about its terms.

Criteria

If your divorce decree provides for modification of your alimony order, you must then prove your ex is cohabiting with another individual. Ohio’s legislation includes specific language defining cohabitation. It’s not enough that your ex takes in a roommate. Her relationship with the person she’s living with must be sexual in nature. He must also contribute to her support by sharing household expenses. Generally, this relationship must be of some significant duration. You probably won't be successful in convincing a court to terminate your alimony obligation if your ex’s paramour moves in with her and you file a petition for modification with the court a week later.

Proof

Assuming your ex is cohabiting with someone as defined by Ohio law, you must next prove it to the court. You’ll need evidence, such as shared utility bills or bank account, or a mortgage or lease in joint names. You’ll also need proof your ex’s relationship with her “roommate” is sexual or romantic in nature, for example, by showing they regularly appear in public together as a couple. It can be difficult to obtain copies of your ex’s utility bills through legal channels, so if you’re sure your ex’s relationship qualifies, speak with an attorney or licensed private investigator about how to gather the evidence you need.

Other Considerations

Even if your decree does not contain language allowing you to modify spousal support, your obligation to pay it might not be forever anyway. If your marriage did not last 20 years or more, your alimony order probably isn't permanent. Ohio judges usually order about one year of alimony for every three years of marriage. Review your judgment, or have an attorney look it over, to find out how long you must keep paying. It may be small consolation, but you might only have to pay for a short time after your ex begins to cohabit with someone else. If your decree allows for modification, but you can’t prove the criteria for cohabitation, you should also speak with an attorney. Ohio law allows you to ask for an alimony modification due to a variety of changed circumstances and some may apply to your situation. Special rules also apply to decrees issued before 1986.