Is living with your best friend’s brother considered cohabitation?

by Jeralyn Lawrence, Family Law Attorney, Lawrence Law

In the world of New Jersey family law, cohabitation is a term of art. It involves a mutually supportive, intimate, personal relationship where parties share the duties, responsibilities and privileges typically associated with marriage. Said another way, it is a relationship that has the hallmarks of marriage, but without the marriage ceremony.

Evidence is Key

When you allege cohabitation, you must be sure to have evidence to show a stable, prolonged, marital-like relationship.

In the Appellate Division case of Schmitt v. Lupo-Schmitt, husband/plaintiff was made to pay his former wife’s/defendant’s counsel fees. This happened because she had to respond to his application claiming she was cohabiting with another person. The trial court found no evidence of cohabitation.

Plaintiff filed a motion to terminate his alimony obligation when his former wife moved into her best friend’s father’s house while she awaited placement in affordable housing. The father and his son also lived in the house. Plaintiff alleged that his former wife was cohabiting with her best friend’s brother.

The former wife and the best friend’s brother both certified that they did not have a romantic relationship, and that the brother did not support her nor provide her with any financial assistance.

The trial court found plaintiff’s allegations meritless and unsupported by anything other than his unfounded accusations. The court made clear that just because the defendant was living in the house with a person of the opposite sex, that does not mean they were cohabiting.

Moreover, since the plaintiff was unable to provide any evidence to support his bald assertions of cohabitation, the court awarded his former wife counsel fees for having to respond to his cohabitation motion. The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Do You Have a Claim?

While cohabitation is a hot area of the law, you must be careful when asserting a claim of cohabitation. To move forward with a successful cohabitation application, be sure to have evidence to strongly support your claim. If you wish to discuss permissible evidence, or the extent of such evidence in your possession, please do not hesitate to contact this office and schedule a consultation.

For more information about this blog or other divorce, matrimonial or family law issues contact me at moc.m1593714821rifwa1593714821lwal@1593714821ecner1593714821walj1593714821.

Jeralyn Lawrence is a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung. She also serves as Second Vice President of the New Jersey State Bar Association (slated to become President in 2022), is the Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the NJSBA, and serves as Second Vice-President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She can be reached at moc.m1593714821rifwa1593714821lwal@1593714821ecner1593714821walj1593714821 or (908) 645-1000.

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