Oklahoma courts presiding over a divorce sometimes order one spouse (the “paying spouse”) to provide financial assistance to the other spouse (the “supported spouse”), called alimony. When the supported spouse remarries, however, the paying spouse should know whether he or she must continue paying alimony.
This article explains how a supported spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation affects alimony under Oklahoma law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Oklahoma after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Oklahoma courts have the power during a divorce to order one spouse to pay the other alimony for a set period of time, or until the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the supported spouse. Alimony may be in the form of a transfer of property, a lump-sum payment, or periodic (usually monthly) payments for a certain period of time or until a certain event occurs.
Oklahoma courts consider a number of factors when determining alimony, including the following:
If you would like to know more about alimony in Oklahoma, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, the supported spouse’s remarriage almost always terminates alimony. The paying spouse should file a motion to terminate alimony with the court as soon as he or she discovers that the supported spouse has remarried. The court must issue an order terminating alimony unless the supported spouse can show that support is still needed. In order for alimony to continue, the supported spouse must file a request that alimony continue within 90 days of his or her remarriage.
Courts will only continue an alimony award to a remarried supported spouse under rare circumstances. Courts won’t continue alimony just because the new spouse can’t provide the same standard of living as the paying spouse. The one exception to this is when the divorcing couple agreed as part of their divorce that alimony continues even if the supported spouse remarries, in which case alimony won’t terminate upon the supported spouse’s remarriage.
Even when the court terminates alimony, the paying spouse must still make any alimony payments that were past-due on the date of the supported spouse’s remarriage.
Oklahoma courts usually have the power to modify or terminate a periodic alimony award while it is still being paid. The exception is when a couple divorces by agreement, and fails to include a provision giving the court the ability to modify or terminate alimony at a later time; this is a common provision in divorce agreements. Also, if alimony was ordered in the form of a property transfer or a lump-sum payment, the court can’t change it later.
To modify or end alimony, the paying spouse should file a motion to modify alimony with the county district court clerk’s office. The court will schedule a hearing where both spouses must appear to argue whether alimony should be changed. In order for the judge to order a change in alimony, the paying spouse must prove that there has been a substantial change in the paying spouse’s or supported spouse’s financial circumstances, and that the change is expected to continue indefinitely. For example, if the paying spouse suffers an involuntary job loss, or the supported spouse has a significant increase in income, the court may reduce or terminate alimony.
Also, courts will often place a condition on the alimony award, such as requiring the supported spouse to attend school or obtain training to increase his or her earning ability. If the supported spouse fails to start school, drops out, or fails the course work, the court may reduce or terminate alimony.
Sometimes the paying spouse and supported spouse may agree to modify or terminate alimony. If this is the case, the two spouses can avoid a court hearing by signing an agreement that spells out the new alimony terms and submitting it to the judge for approval.
Oklahoma law also states that if the supported spouse begins cohabiting with a member of the opposite sex, the paying spouse has legal grounds to modify alimony. Cohabitation means that a man and woman are living together in a romantic relationship similar to marriage. The couple doesn’t have to meet all the definitions of a common-law marriage for it to be considered cohabitation; simply living together on a continual basis and having a relationship may be enough for a court to decide the couple is cohabiting. The court will generally only modify alimony when the supported spouse’s financial condition has improved due to the cohabitation.
If you are paying alimony and believe your ex-spouse is cohabiting with another person, you should file a motion to modify or terminate alimony. You should also gather any evidence of their cohabitation, including any evidence or witnesses that help prove they are living together, have a romantic relationship, share expenses, do not have separate residences, etc. If the court believes you have proven that your ex-spouse is cohabiting, and financially benefitting from the cohabitation, the judge can issue an order that reduces or terminates alimony retroactive to the date you filed your motion.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact an Oklahoma family law attorney for help.