Cohabitation and why trial courts should follow the Temple decision

Cohabitation and why trial courts should follow the Temple decision

The Temple Decision and Its Impact on Alimony Modification

Divorce lawyers were pleased in 2014 when the state of Paducah revised its alimony regulations to accommodate Cohabitation. However, as the Landau v. Landau, judgment in 2019 showed, misunderstanding about Cohabitation persisted. The Temple v. Temple ruling in 2021 resolved these issues by providing precise wording that removes the insurmountable barrier that an alimony payor often confronts when trying to reduce, suspend, or even cancel alimony.

Alimony in Paducah

Alimony is a court-ordered requirement in which an ex-spouse continues to financially support their former spouse for a certain length of time and a set amount of money. The alimony in the Temple case was permanent. Permanent alimony was replaced in 2014 by open durational alimony, often reserved for marriages lasting 20 years or more. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the alimony duration cannot be greater than the marital length and may be shorter based on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Alimony rules in Paducah are gender-neutral. Thus gender plays no part in the more than a dozen variables a judge considers when deciding whether to grant support. Whether the assistance is temporary or permanent, the courts have the authority to alter or terminate it. Courts often adjust the financial conditions of alimony orders if income changes. They will terminate an order if the supported spouse remarries or is in a close personal relationship that fits the standards for Cohabitation.

Cohabitation Criteria

Courts and family attorneys often use Cohabitation to describe mutually supportive, intimate, and personal partnerships. A significant concern recognized by the courts is that some former spouses postpone or forego marriage to continue collecting alimony payments. Cohabitation is the same as marriage for alimony modification, suspension, or termination, and there are set criteria that the court employs to assess whether a relationship constitutes Cohabitation. The following are the evaluation criteria for the court:

  • Intertwined finances
  • Sharing living expenses
  • Sharing household chores
  • Recognition of the relationship within social circles
  • Living together and other indicia of a mutually supportive Intimate Personal Relationship
  • An enforceable promise of support from another person
  • All other evidence that the court deems relevant

Proving Cohabitation at the Initial Motion Stage

According to family law lawyers, the responsibility is on the alimony payor seeking the adjustment in alimony to present the first proof of Cohabitation. What has been established in several decisions, particularly the Landau case, is that the party seeking modification must prove a prima facie case for Cohabitation. The Landau case reinforced the necessity that this lawsuit be filed before obtaining discovery.


Discovery is a formal procedure in which the two parties concerned share information in a legally binding way. This is the stage of a divorce trial where each spouse’s divorce counsel presents their evidence to the other. In the case of alimony adjustment, this is the time when the individual requesting the modification may request financial records and other evidence that can be used to indicate that Cohabitation is taking place.


Due to the misreading of the Landau judgment, what existed previous to the Temple case was what many divorce attorneys referred to as an impossible duty. Before the discovery, the individual asking for the change has to demonstrate a prima facie case. The difficulty here is that such a case is easier to prove with access to the facts that discovery permits. The court wishes to prevent a fishing expedition, which is the problem. How can you allow for the proof a payor spouse needs while respecting the privacy of the supported spouse?

The Temple Case

After an 18-year marriage, the court in the Temple case gave the wife perpetual alimony of more than $5,000 per month. Sixteen years later, the husband sought to terminate his alimony payment because he claimed his ex-wife was cohabiting for 14 years. The spouse offered a variety of facts without the advantage of discovery, but the court concluded that the case presented needed to address all six of the elements outlined previously.

The husband’s family attorney appealed the case. The Appellate Division overturned the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to provide the husband the chance for discovery and an evidentiary hearing. The higher court reasoned that it would be easier to show interwoven finances and comparable information with the benefit of discovery.

The Case Published

The vast majority of case law is not published. Typically, an appellate court will opt to issue a judgment if it considers it will serve as a future precedent. In this instance, the appellate court initially did not make that determination. However, the Committee on Publications received several requests from renowned attorneys nationwide and a formal request from the Paducah Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys. The Committee agreed, and Temple v. Temple was subsequently published.

The Ruling

Practitioners interpret the law based on published case law. From that standpoint, the Temple case is noteworthy because it clarifies the burdens at the first motion stage and the first hearing. It is also worth noting that the judgment specifies how trial courts should treat Cohabitation and, more specifically, describes the situations under which the courts should accept or prohibit disclosure.

The appellate court also addressed family judges directly with their decision. It advised them to avoid fishing trips while also keeping in mind that most information pertinent to Cohabitation is not easily accessible to the individual seeking the adjustment.

The Road Ahead

It is too early to judge if the actual change has happened, but it is probable since the law will be clearer due to this judgment.

Modification of Court-Ordered Alimony

Paducah Divorce Lawyers would like to assist you if you pay alimony and want to amend a court ruling because your former spouse is in a relationship that amounts to marriage. Our Paducah legal company has offices at 420 N 5th St, Paducah, KY 42001, and you may arrange a case assessment with a family law attorney by calling (270) 201-7776 or using the contact form on our website.