For decades, courts have struggled with the impact of cohabitation on alimony. The legal pendulum has swung back and forth between a desire to enforce commonly-held moral views and a desire to recognize the economic realities accompanying marriage. Perhaps no two cases better represent the divergence of opinions than the trial court decisions in Grossman v. Grossman, 128 N.J. Super. 193 (Ch. Div. 1974), and Garlinger v. Garlinger, 129 N.J. Super. 47 (Ch. Div. 1974), which were issued less than two months apart in 1974.

The trial court in Grossman rejected the argument that alimony should be terminated as a result of the payee’s cohabitation, holding that to do so would impermissibly “punish [the payee] for her conduct.” Instead, the court focused on whether the payee was receiving “financial assistance” such that “she no longer has need for all or part of the alimony payments awarded to her.” The very next month, the trial court in Garlinger took the opposite tack, reasoning that “gross misconduct by the ex-wife after entry of judgment may in itself justify a reduction or termination of alimony.” In a four-page decision, the court mentioned morality no less than seven times and endorsed the reasoning that it would be unconscionable to compel a divorced husband to “support the divorced wife in idleness and immorality.”

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