In Georgia, an alimony award can be modified under limited circumstances. One such circumstance is the “live-in lover” law. Under this law, “the voluntary cohabitation of such former spouse with a third party in a meretricious relationship” after the award of alimony has been entered shall be grounds to modify the alimony award. OCGA §19-6-19(b). While this sounds fairly straightforward, there are several elements that must be met.
First, the alimony payor must prove that his/her former spouse is continuously and openly cohabitating with another person. This means that they hold themselves out as living together – it is not secret or hidden. Second, the alimony payor must prove that the parties have a meretricious relationship. A meretricious relationship is one in which there is sexual intercourse. This is obviously much harder to prove without an admission. As an alternative to proof of sexual intercourse, the payor may prove that his/her former spouse shares expenses with his/her co-inhabitant. Hathcock v. Hathcock, 249 Ga. 74 (1982). In Hathcock, this was held to be sufficient proof of a meretricious relationship. Third, the alimony payor must prove that the cohabitation began subsequent to the alimony award.
Once the alimony payor has proven all elements listed above, it is in the Judge’s discretion whether to modify alimony. In addition, it is important to note that, if the alimony payor is unsuccessful on his/her petition to modify alimony under the live-in lover law, the payor “shall be liable for reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the respondent for the defense of the action.” OCGA §19-6-19(b). Therefore, before you file, review your evidence with an experienced family law attorney to weigh your chance of a successful modification, or you may continue to pay alimony plus have the additional expense of your ex-spouse’s attorney’s fees.