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Cohabitation can affect maintenance payments in Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin law, when you are receiving maintenance payments (better commonly known as “alimony”) and if you get remarried, your payments automatically stop under Wisconsin law. What happens, if you live with someone instead? Do your payments automatically stop?

Under the law in this state, cohabitation is a factor that the court can consider in the modification or cessation of maintenance payments. The fact that a couple decide to live together, in and of itself, is not enough to affect the payments, so it is certainly not automatic. However, when a couple lives together out of wed lock, the payer-spouse would have the right to file a motion that asks that their payments be modified or suspended and will have to show the court that the couple are sharing expenses, holding themselves out and acting as a married couple, that the relationship appears to be long standing and not just a short fling, and that the parties have joint assets, accounts, debts or that one may be actually supporting the other, for the court to take notice about whether the support payments should be adjusted or not.

This requires an intensive fact finding mission on the part of the trial court to be provided by the moving party sufficient evidence and facts that may sway the court as to the modification of the support payments. If you simply argue that it is not fair that a person should have to support an ex spouse, because they are shacking up with a new boyfriend/girlfriend, as the case may be, chances are the motion will fail. It also may be prudent for the moving party, through their lawyer, to conduct a discovery deposition of the ex spouse in advance of the contested hearing, to see how involved the new relationship is, and what is the financial relationship between the parties. Courts can get quickly irritated with lawyers who try to “discovery” during the hearing itself when the facts and evidence could have all been learned in advance.

I have successfully settled two cohabitation cases in the last year or so and litigated this issue before a trial court. It is clear under the law what judges need to look at it and simply cohabitation in and of itself, is not going to be enough to have the payments adjusted. If you have a question on an important family law issue, feel free to contact one of our experienced family lawyers at Karp & Iancu, S.C. today.

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