My divorce agreement requires me to pay alimony to my ex-wife until my normal retirement age which is 10 years away. I recently became aware that my ex has moved in with our next-door neighbor who lost her husband a few years ago. My son asked me how I felt about his mother’s new partner and seemed genuinely concerned that she is now with a woman. It never crossed my mind that they were anything more than friends who decided to become roommates. He was so sure of himself that I am now wondering. I think if she is living with a new partner, regardless of gender, I might be able to stop paying alimony. It would be nice to stop paying so much alimony.
How would this work if I were to take some action here?
The alimony statute in Massachusetts contemplates the ability to suspend, reduce or terminate alimony “upon a showing that the recipient is maintaining a common household with another person.” So, before you do anything, you need to determine if your ex and the neighbor meet the definition of sharing a “common household.” If you want to change your alimony, you would need to show a judge that your ex and the neighbor (a) have made oral or written statements to others regarding their relationship, (b) there is an economic interdependence between the two, (c) they are engaging in conduct in furtherance of their life together, (d) there is a benefit to either or both of them in their relationship, (e) the community recognizes them as a couple, or (f) any other relevant information.
One way to do this is to file a complaint for modification asking for a reduction and/or termination of alimony. Once you serve the complaint and summons on your ex, you can do the discovery necessary to prove the above factors. For example, ask for bank records and household bills to show who is paying what. Ask for copies of any rental agreement or mortgage statements. If they have joint bank accounts or one is paying bills in the other’s name — that is helpful to your cause. Then, talk with people who know them — do they hold themselves out as a couple? Or just friends/roommates? If this option doesn’t sit right with you, there is another option.
Invite your ex to meet you for coffee or lunch. Be frank about what your son told you and ask her whether she is in a relationship with the neighbor and where she sees it going. Depending on your relationship you can tell her why you are asking, or not — I’m sure you are curious regardless of the impact on alimony. If she admits the relationship, ask her to agree to reduce or eliminate alimony while she is in the relationship. If she denies the relationship, you know her well — how good of a liar is she? Then consider if you think she is lying to you, will a judge believe her?