Cohabitation and Alimony in California


If the recipient of alimony in a California divorce begins cohabitating with someone else post-divorce, it can affect their alimony, but this is not always the case. In other words, alimony considerations are complex, and having an experienced California divorce attorney on your side is the surest means of protecting your financial rights moving forward.

Alimony in California

In California, Alimony is called spousal support, and it only plays a role in those divorces that leave one spouse unable to support themself at or near the standard of living achieved during marriage and leave the other with the financial means to provide assistance. When alimony is addressed in a couple’s premarital agreement, the terms included generally prevail. The same is true of alimony terms that are hammered out between the couple – or are ordered by the court – at the time of divorce and included in the divorce decree. When a couple’s alimony orders are silent on the matter of cohabitation, the issue must be resolved in accordance with state law.


In California, the obligation to pay alimony ends automatically when the recipient remarries. In fact, no court orders or filings are required. If the recipient of alimony fails to notify the payor regarding their remarriage, the court can order a refund of any alimony paid after the wedding date. Remarriage, however, has no bearing on any of the following:

  • alimony payments that are in arrears
  • alimony that was awarded in a vested lump-sum amount that is made in payments
  • alimony that was awarded in the form of a property transfer

While couples can agree to waive alimony’s end upon remarriage, this matter needs to be specifically addressed in their divorce terms.

A Significant Change in Circumstance

While remarriage can have an automatic effect on alimony, modifying or ending alimony for any other reason requires filing a legal motion and requesting that the court make an adjustment – unless you and your ex can reach a mutually acceptable agreement, which the court is almost certain to sign off on. Changes that tend to reach the level necessary to support an alimony modification – or alimony’s end – include the following:

  • an increase in the recipient’s income
  • a decrease in the recipient’s financial needs
  • cohabitation with a romantic partner

Cohabitating with a romantic partner is often very much like a marriage. In fact, courts sometimes find that cohabitation amounts to marriage without the legal trappings – as a means of maintaining alimony.

A Rebuttable Presumption

California takes the position that moving in with someone else creates a rebuttable presumption for a decrease in the need for spousal support. The court will assume that a change in circumstance of this nature decreases the recipient’s financial need – unless they can prove otherwise. In other words, if the recipient of alimony chooses to cohabitate with a romantic partner, the onus is on them to demonstrate that their financial need has not been diminished by their cohabitation.

For cohabitation to require the court’s attention regarding alimony, the relationship must be romantic in nature. However, even moving in with a roommate can decrease the financial requirements of an alimony recipient, which the court may take into consideration.

Factors that Can Play a Role

Demonstrating that the circumstances supporting your alimony orders have changed to the degree that your payments should be reduced is a high bar. Factors that the court will take into careful consideration when making its final decision in the matter include:

  • whether or not your ex and the person they are cohabitating with have joint financial accounts
  • whether or not your ex and the person they are cohabitating with share joint title to property
  • whether or not your ex and the person they are cohabitating with have a joint rental agreement

The more indicators there are that your ex and the person they are cohabitating with are proceeding as if they are married, the less wiggle room there is in terms of maintaining the current terms of alimony. It’s important to note, however, that alimony determinations are made on a case-by-case basis, which makes having professional legal counsel in your corner well-advised.

Don’t Wait to Consult with an Experienced California Divorce Attorney

If your ex is living with someone new and you’re wondering how it affects the alimony payments you make, it’s time to reach out to an accomplished California divorce attorney who has a wealth of experience successfully guiding challenging cases like yours toward advantageous outcomes.