In 2013, the Appellate Division addressed the issue of whether it is appropriate for the Court to consider non-quantifiable lifestyle enhancements when determining whether to modify or terminate alimony to a former spouse who is cohabiting.
This case provides us with four very important points and analyses to consider when addressing cohabitation cases:
1. Reese v. Weis provides us with the criteria and conditions to determine if alimony should be terminated or modified. This was not as clearly defined or set forth prior to this case.
2. For the first time, the term "economic benefit" is defined as well as whether the benefit is direct, indirect. Although the prior case law required the cohabiting spouse to receive some economic benefit from the cohabitation, this case actually defines and sets forth examples of what that benefit may entail.
3. One cannot rely on laches as a defense unless the cohabiter can prove the payor acquiesced to the cohabitation. Laches is the unreasonable delay in pursuing a right or claim in a way that prejudices the other party. In this case, the Wife sought to bar the Husband for waiting several years to make this application to the Court even though he was aware she was cohabiting, which the Court denied.
4. The ability to retroactively modify alimony is in the discretion of the Court.
Reese v. Weis, 430 N.J. Super. 522 (App. Div. 2013)