I’ve written before about NJ law around cohabitation and ending alimony. Basically, if a recipient of alimony enters into a relationship that looks like marriage but isn’t formalized into a marriage — cohabitation — alimony can be terminated. The court laid out factors it would look at in a case called Konzelman v. Konzelman, 158 N.J. 185 (1999). When the state legislature updated the alimony statute in 2014 (visit this link for the factors), these factors were largely added to the statute. Divorces prior to the statute change are governed by Konzelman, and those after by the statute. What assertions does a petitioner need to make to the court to invoke the factors? That’s what the NJ Supreme Court opined on this week in Cardali v. Cardali.
The Cardalis divorced in 2006. The settlement agreement provided for alimony to the wife which would terminate upon cohabitation. In 2020, the husband filed a motion with the court to terminate alimony due to the wife cohabitating with another man. He submitted a report from a private investigator that showed the wife was in a relationship tantamount to marriage. The couple was essentially together for the 44 days of the investigation. The husband’s motion was denied by the trial judge and that denial was upheld by the appellate court. He appealed to the NJ Supreme Court.
The court ruled that the petitioner just needs to make a prima facie (“on first look”) case for discovery. He does not need to prove all of the Konzelman factors to have the court look at his case. He simply needs to show that his assertions can be true and that the parties should exchange further information so that both sides have facts to make arguments to the court.
From the opinion:
“We do not view the case law, or N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n) in cases governed by the statute, to require evidence of a financial relationship between the spouse or civil union partner receiving alimony and the other person as a prerequisite to discovery; as a practical matter, such a showing may be impossible without discovery. Accordingly, we hold that a movant need not present evidence on all of the cohabitation factors in order to make a prima facie showing.”
This ruling brings further clarity to the process of terminating alimony when cohabitation happens. It is something for all recipients and payors of alimony to be aware of.