In its decision in Cardali v. Cardali, the New Jersey Supreme Court provides much-needed clarity on an issue that's caused inconsistent rulings and confusion in divorce matters throughout the state. Specifically, the Cardali decision sets clear guidance for attorneys, judges, and divorce litigants on what the burden of proof is to show cohabitation in a motion to terminate alimony payments. Some hail the decision as a big win for New Jersey divorce litigants.
The Cardalis entered into a divorce agreement in 2006 whereby alimony payments would be terminated by cohabitation — i.e., a serious relationship intended to be a long-term commitment that relieves the alimony payer of the responsibility of financially supporting their ex-spouse.
Fourteen years later, Mr. Cardali filed a motion seeking to terminate his alimony payments to Ms. Cardali based on her cohabitation with her boyfriend. Mr. Cardali provided evidence showing that Ms. Cardali and her boyfriend had been in a relationship for eight years, had vacationed together, had posted pictures together on social media, had attended social and family events together as a couple, and that Ms. Cardali's boyfriend had access to her home and stayed overnight often.
The trial court denied the motion because Mr. Cardali failed to provide any evidence that his ex and her boyfriend's finances were intertwined and thus didn't show cohabitation under New Jersey law. The Supreme Court reversed, setting clear guidelines for showing cohabitation for the purpose of the motion and a new two-step process that New Jersey divorce litigants must follow.
NJ Divorce Litigants Need Only Make a Prima Facie Showing of Cohabitation to Obtain Discovery in a Motion to Terminate Alimony Payments
In its Cardali decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court stated that, in a motion seeking to end or suspend alimony payments, a divorce litigant need only provide some evidence — a prima facie showing — that, if not disputed, would constitute cohabitation. The court specifically stated that a litigant need not provide evidence of all of the cohabitation factors listed in the law in order to proceed with discovery on their motion.
The court stated that, in order to protect the alimony recipient's privacy, any discovery into cohabitation that's granted should be limited to “discrete issues” in cohabitation factors relevant to the case.
NJ Divorce Litigants Must Follow a New Two-Step Process to Determine Cohabitation
The New Jersey Supreme Court also stated that divorce litigants must now submit a new certification that sets forth all evidence on the cohabitation issue. The trial court will then determine if a hearing is necessary to resolve the issue of cohabitation. The burden of proof remains on the party paying alimony, but this new second step means that there's a chance to avoid a costly hearing if the evidence at this point establishes cohabitation.
The Lento Law Firm Can Help Anyone Who's Involved in a Divorce or Is Seeking to End Alimony Payments in New Jersey
Divorce proceedings in New Jersey can be complicated and stressful. In order to achieve your desired outcome, it's important to stay up-to-date on the court decisions and laws that can affect the terms of your divorce. The knowledgeable Family Law Team at the Lento Law Firm has years of experience advising and helping people throughout New Jersey in all matters pertaining to divorce, including motions to terminate alimony payments. We stay current on legal developments and can advise you how changes in the law can affect the terms of your divorce. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.