The Effects of Cohabitation on Alimony in Alabama

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If you are paying or receiving alimony as part of a Divorce Order in Alabama, this one is for you. Under Alabama Law, the obligation to pay periodic alimony terminates upon the receiving party’s “cohabitation” with a member of the opposite sex. So, what does that mean?

Under the case law, cohabitation is that thing that occurs somewhere between casual social and sexual activity and common law marriage (which only exists in Alabama until the end of 2016). The opinions handed down from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court indicate that cohabitation requires two elements: 1) A relationship that bears some indicia of permanency, and 2) More than occasional or casual sexual contact.

So, you may ask, what qualifies as “indicia of permanency?” Sharing expenses, staying overnight with one another on a regular basis, dating to the exclusion of others, and receiving mail at the same address can all qualify under this element. This list is not all-inclusive, so contact me with your specific set of facts.

Here’s a good article on the subject from Diane Danois:

Here’s the thing. In Alabama, whether cohabitation has occurred is always a question of fact for the Judge to decide. That decision is reviewed by the Appellate Courts by “clearly and palpably wrong” standard. So, in Alabama, cohabitation is cohabitation if the Judge says it is cohabitation, and winning on appeal is very, very difficult. You can’t take back cohabitation. Once that bell rings, the right to periodic alimony is over forever.

You may be asking, “Ron, what can I do to protect myself?” I’m glad you asked. There are steps you can take to protect yourself, whether you are the payor or the payee of periodic alimony in Alabama. Call me at (251)445-0891, or email me at Together, we’ll work to minimize your risks no matter which side of the check on which you find yourself.