What if spouse stops paying (NOT court ordered) alimony

We have a separation agreement that was notarized, but no court order. Separation agreement states that cohabitation is a qualifier to end alimony. Recipient of alimony has been living with her romantic interest for a few years now, and has lived in three different locations. It’s acknowledged, and there are many witnesses.

My question is not whether this constitutes cohabitation, it does. My question is “can I just stop paying it”. Since the alimony is not court ordered, what is the penalty if she contests it? Do I have to just “prove cohabitation or pay her back”, or could I be held to higher penalties? Again, this was not court ordered, it was part of our separation agreement.

Alimony officially ends in 11 months anyway, so I don’t want to invest in a PI. I’m trying to decide if I should just pay out the term, or if I would be legally justified to stop the payments. OR if I stopped them, and she took me to court, what would happen?

If your separation agreement states that cohabitation terminates alimony and you are certain that the cohabitation going on with your ex-spouse fits the cohabitation definition, then you can stop paying alimony unless your separation agreement states otherwise.

Your ex-spouse could file a breach of contract lawsuit against you for failing to perform under the contract as obligated to do so. However, your defense would be the cohabitation, and you would need to have the evidence ready to support your claim of cohabitation meeting the definition in your separation agreement. If you could not satisfactorily prove cohabitation, then you could be required to pay your ex-spouse’s attorney’s fees for the breach of contract lawsuit as the “losing” party.

Rather than simply stopping payment, perhaps you can send your ex-spouse a letter stating that she has terminated the alimony pursuant to the separation agreement and therefore, you will no longer be paying it, also pursuant to the separation agreement (assuming you are confident that the current circumstances meet the definition of cohabitation in your separation agreement).

Anna Ayscue

Attorney with Rosen Law Firm Cary • Chapel Hill • Durham • Raleigh • Wake Forest

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