When Does Dating Become Cohabitation in Illinois?

When does dating become cohabitation in Illinois?  Why is this so important? Under Illinois law, cohabitation is one way  to terminate maintenance payments.  The law provides that maintenance payments terminate in the event of death, remarriage or cohabitation.  However, the statute does not provide the definition of cohabitation.  The courts have decided this on a case by case basis.  And the cases are not consistent. Cohabitation means different things depending on where in Illinois you live.

This is an issue that affects mostly women as they are the majority of spouses who  receive support.  If in trying to move on with their lives, women start to date, they may be put themselves at risk that the payor may file a motion to terminate. Who knows when dating becomes cohabitation?  At this point, each Illinois Appellate court seems to have a different notion of what is a "de facto marriage" and thus grounds to terminate support.  That could leave the payee spouse in a precarious financial situation.

Here are a couple of older cases dealing with this issue.  One found that no cohabitation was occurring and the other did.

Also here is an article that gives a short history of this issue in Illinois.

I do not find any recent cohab cases that have come out of Cook County [which would go to the 1st Appellate Court district], but here is a recent one from the 4th district:  In Re Marriage of Wheat, 2013 Il App (4th) 120950 [July 1, 2013] found that the dating couple was not in a marriage like relationship based on all the facts and circumstances. I cannot find this online at the moment, but will post a link as soon as I do.

When does dating become cohabitation in Illinois?  Who knows?

This  issue has no clear standards or measures as to what constitutes cohabitation and desperately needs to be clarified. A case by case analysis gives some guidance as to the factors that the courts use to decide cohab or not. Either the Illinois Supreme Court should address in a case that goes up from one of the the appellate courts and/or the Illinois legislature should add factors to give courts to weigh in deciding.  An alternative is to take cohabitation out of the statute entirely.  The other two terminating events: death and remarriage are black and white.  Either you are alive or you are dead;  you are either married or you are unmarried. Cohabitation is not so clear cut.

Having clear standards will help both the payor and the recipent.

Please consult your attorney for more advice if this issue is of concern to you.  The issue is much more complicated than the above commentary.

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Filed under: Illinois divorce

Tags: Cohabitation

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