Does Spousal Support End with Cohabitation?

Does Spousal Support End with Cohabitation?

Spousal support is sometimes awarded in the state of California. This is to help one spouse or domestic partner adjust to life without the financial support of the higher income spouse. Also called Alimony, spousal support can be awarded for a specific period of time, for example, monthly for seven years, or it may be awarded for an indefinite period of time.

The amount of support awarded is determined by the judge based on many factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • What each person can pay.
  • The age and health of both individuals.
  • Other important factors.


If circumstances change for the receiving or paying spouse, either one can petition the court for a change in the amount or length of spousal support.

Spousal support in the state of California ends if the receiving spouse marries, unless the parties have agreed otherwise. That’s because the court assumes that the supported spouse now has access to additional financial resources. But what if the receiving spouse decides to cohabit with a romantic partner rather than get married? Cohabitation may provide the same additional financial support for the recipient spouse as marriage. So does the paying spouse still need to provide support?

What does California Law say?

Under California Family Law Code 4323(a)(1), Except as otherwise agreed to by the parties in writing, there is a rebuttable presumption, affecting the burden of proof, of decreased need for spousal support if the supported party is cohabiting with a non-marital partner. Upon a determination that circumstances have changed, the court may modify or terminate the spousal support as provided for in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 3650) of Part 1.

In other words, yes, if the supported spouse begins to cohabit with a romantic partner, the supporting spouse can petition the court for a change in support payment. That’s because sharing a household gives rise to economies of scale. The romantic cohabiting partner may be of the opposite or of the same sex. The court does not differentiate.

Can the supporting partner get his or her spousal support reduced or eliminated? That depends. In spite of cohabitating with a romantic partner, the supported spouse may be able to prove that cohabitation has not changed her or his need for support.

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and the Adoption Tax Credit have not been affected.


If you are paying or receiving spousal support and want to know how cohabitation may impact your agreement, please contact our office for a consultation.  Marissa Major and Hillary Warren of Warren Major LLC are Marin County family law attorneys, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues. If you are looking for honest, expert legal advice, please contact our office for a consultation

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