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Spotlighting supportive relationships

11140671_S.jpgIt may be widely understood amongst divorcees in Springfield that an award of spousal maintenance is typically only meant to last as long as is needed for the one receiving it to support a standard of living similar to that which they had while married. Yet many spousal maintenance obligees may come to view such payments as a portion of their income, and thus may be hesitant to end them. Remarrying would automatically end an alimony agreement, so those receiving may believe that simply by not remarrying, the obligation for their ex-spouses to continue paying remains in place. 

Section 452.370 of Missouri's Domestic Relations Code states that a substantial an continuing change in one's circumstances may necessitate a modification of their divorce agreement. This includes the payment of spousal maintenance. Entering into a new supportive relationship may constitute such a change. Most, however, only view marriage as being a supportive relationship. Yet what about cohabitation? 

A 2016 ruling issued by a Missouri State Appellate Court recognized that past court decisions indicate that the state's views cohabitation as being a substitute for marriage, and would therefore warrant the modification or termination of an alimony obligation. In such cases, however, the burden of proof lies with the one petitioning to end spousal maintenance payments to show that their ex-spouse's relationship is indeed supportive. Some elements that can be used to verify such a point include: 

  • How long a cohabitating couple has lived together
  • To what extent such a couple presents themselves as being married
  • Whether a couple has intermingled their assets
  • If a couple has purchased anything of value together (such as a home or a car)

Proving that a supportive relationship exists may not completely end an alimony obligation; a court may simply choose instead to reduce one's monthly payments. 

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