Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, requires regular payments by an individual to a former spouse after the couple's separation and divorce. The payor-spouse may feel resentful about ongoing monthly support, especially if the recipient-spouse has started a new romantic relationship. Whether alimony ends upon the recipient-spouse's remarriage or cohabitation with a new partner depends on each state's divorce laws.
The terms of an alimony award determine the monthly cost to the ex-spouse responsible for paying spousal support, as well as the duration of the support obligation. A pending divorce may require temporary alimony, while a finalized divorce may include a court order for ongoing alimony. A finalized order may require spousal support for a specific period to end on a definite date or result in support on a permanent basis for an indefinite period. The judge may include other provisions, such as termination due to remarriage, in the court order.
Limits on Alimony
States' divorce laws usually include limits on alimony, which the divorce court must follow when issuing orders for spousal support. In Utah, for example, the duration of court-ordered alimony generally may not last for a longer period of time than the duration of the marriage itself. In addition to limits imposed by state law, ex-spouses may negotiate the terms of alimony during their divorce. A divorce agreement may explain other circumstances, including remarriage if not already specified in state law, that will result in an end to alimony obligations.
Automatic Termination Upon Remarriage
Some state laws expressly provide for automatic termination of alimony upon the remarriage of the recipient-spouse. Missouri, for example, includes specific language in the Missouri Revised Statutes to relieve an ex-spouse from alimony obligations upon the date of the other party's remarriage, without a need for further court proceedings. The rights of the ex-spouse responsible for alimony payments depend on the relevant laws in the state where the divorce occurred. Though some states allow for termination of alimony upon the recipient-spouse's remarriage, statutes do not usually address the termination of alimony due to the payor-spouse's remarriage. Furthermore, an end to alimony upon remarriage does not include an end to child support, which represents a separate legal issue.
Effect of Cohabitation
Some states have enacted laws regarding the effect of cohabitation on ex-spouses' alimony arrangements. Delaware, for example, specifically provides for termination of alimony when the recipient-spouse has engaged in cohabitation as part of a new relationship, even when the new relationship does not include a formal marriage. The Delaware Code defines cohabitation as "regularly residing" with another adult when the two adults "hold themselves out as a couple." As alimony laws vary from state to state, an ex-spouse with concerns about the effect of cohabitation or remarriage on alimony may wish to personally consult with an attorney in his own state.
Cindy Chung is a California-based professional writer. She writes for various websites on legal topics and other areas of interest. She holds a B.A. in education and a Juris Doctor.