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In this article, we discuss the implications of dating during spousal maintenance in Illinois. Spousal maintenance is financial support that you can be eligible for prior to finalizing a divorce, and here we explain how dating during a divorce preceding can effect the outcome of the divorce, including cohabitation and other things to consider.

Maintenance is an award of spousal support from one party to the other in a divorce proceeding. Maintenance terminates upon the marriage of the party receiving maintenance. Unless the parties agree otherwise maintenance may terminate upon the death of either party, or if the party receiving maintenance co-habitats with another person on a resident, continuing conjugal basis. When maintenance is terminated based on cohabitation it can never be reinstated, even if the relationship ends.

What is Considered Cohabitation in Illinois?

To terminate maintenance the spouse seeking termination must establish there is a “marriage type” relationship. This can be done by showing the length of the relationship, the amount of time the former spouse and new partner spend together, and the nature of the activities in which they participate, the interrelations of their personal affairs (including finances), and the vacation and holidays they spend together. Courts do not look strictly at these factors, they will look at the totality of the relationship and if it functions practically and economically in a marriage-like way. The court is looking for a deeper level of commitment and the intended permanence of the relationship.

Things to Consider  

Although there is no definitive rule in Illinois, and each relationship is looked at differently, there are things to consider as you date, and become involved in an exclusive relationship:

  1. Finances – Keep your finances separate. Do not open a joint account, or become a co-signer on credit cards together.
  2. Residence – Do not move in together. Do not go house hunting together. Do not pay any expenses for the other person’s residence. Do not share keys to your residence or cars.
  3. Loans – Do not get a loan from the new significant. Do not co-sign. If you get one due to not receiving maintenance make sure the loan states “loan due to non-payment of maintenance.” 
  4. Estate Planning – Do not include the other person in our estate plan, or as the beneficiary for your retirement plans, life insurance, etc. Do not make the other person your healthcare power of attorney.
  5. Holidays – You are most likely going to spend holidays together, but do not send out joint holiday cards.
  6. Vacations – It is likely you will vacation together, but keep your finances separate. Buy your own plane ticket, and if you are reimbursing the other person make sure you keep track of the reimbursement. 
  7. Communication – Be careful what you put in writing. Anything you put in writing can be used as evidence. 
  8. Social Media – There is no benefit posting about our relationship on social media. If you do be cognizant of what you post.
  9. Together Time – There is no set rule about how much time you spend together; just keep in mind the more time you spend together the greater the factor in favor of cohabitation.

When in Doubt, Reach Out – If you are concerned something could be used against you for cohabitation reach out to your attorney. Your attorney will be able to provide clarity, and help give you guidance to reduce the chance of you losing maintenance.

April 26, 2021
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