Friday, February 18, 2011

Alimony and Cohabitation - Maryland House Bill 304

I testified before the Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates yesterday in support of House Bill 304, which would amend Family Law Article Section 11-108 to provide that statutory alimony would terminate upon the alimony recipient's cohabitation. Currently, alimony terminates upon re-marriage, but not cohabitation. As a result of this distinction, a number of people are opting to cohabitate rather than re-marry solely in order to preserve the payment of alimony to them. I believe the proposed amendment would update Maryland's alimony laws to reflect current societal standards and practices and make the law more equitable.

Following the hearing yesterday, I think it is unlikely this bill as written will be enacted into law. Some of the delegates on the Judiciary Committee had reasonable issues regarding the verbiage of the bill, including how the bill defines "cohabitation", while others seemed to feel that it would be inequitable to terminate alimony upon cohabitation as a blanket rule.

I do, however, believe that there may be support in the legislature for modifying the current statute to clearly state that "cohabitation" may be a factor considered by a Judge in deciding whether to terminate statutory alimony or adopting a factual test to determine whether alimony should be terminated or modified upon cohabitation by the recipient.