Depending on the ruling of the court, an alimony order can be for a set number of years or even life. In order to modify spousal support, whether that be alimony or post-separation support, significant changes are normally necessary. The termination of an alimony order is automatic upon the death of either party, remarriage of the dependent spouse, or cohabitation by the dependent spouse. That being said, what determines cohabitation in North Carolina?
According to North Carolina state law, cohabitation requires:
It is important to take notice that, although the court requires two people to essentially be living together in order to terminate an alimony order, that does not mean that they must be retaining the same residence. The dependent spouse and third party may each retain a separate residence and still be considered living together.
The second criteria the court will look to is whether the dependent and third party act like a married couple. There are numerous facts considered by the North Carolina courts. There is no one item that is required or determinative.
Some factors considered in determining cohabitation:
Although cohabitation is defined by statute, it is often a source of litigation in court. Seeing as the dependent receiving alimony has an incentive to alter behavior to avoid losing their monthly check, these types of cases may get a bit grey at times. This may include keeping a separate residence, limiting the nights spent together per week, not keeping their belongings at the other party’s place, not getting engaged, etc. This behavior can make it quite frustrating for the person ordered to pay. Often, testimony from a private investigator, phone records, and bank records help to establish cohabitation.
In preparing answers to requests for admissions, the answers must be made in good faith and answer the request in detail. Answers that do not accomplish this may be stricken at the court’s discretion and sanctions applied. The following excerpted Rules and cases support the above conclusion. If the defendant in your case offered only blanket denials, and you are able to provide documentation showing that his answers were not complete or made in good faith, it is likely that a judge would be amenable to striking the answers, thus making them admissions, and imposing sanctions such as attorney’s fees. If the opposing party has a good faith belief that their denials were correct, then they will likely not be sanctioned. Of particular interest in Rule 37 (c), which explains the grounds under which a judge may choose to sanction for failure to admit.
NC Rules of Civil Procedure
If objection is made, the reasons therefor shall be stated. The answer shall specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. A denial shall fairly meet the substance of the requested admission, and when good faith requires that a party qualify his answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, he shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder.
If the court determines that an answer does not comply with the requirements of this rule, it may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. The court may, in lieu of these orders, determine that final disposition of the request be made at a pretrial conference or at a designated time prior to trial. The provisions of Rule 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion.
N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 1A-1, 36
Rule 37 (c)
Expenses on failure to admit.--If a party fails to admit the genuineness of any document or the truth of any matter as requested under Rule 36, and if the party requesting the admissions thereafter proves the genuineness of the document or the truth of the matter, the requesting party may apply to the court for an order requiring the other party to pay to him or her the reasonable expenses incurred in making that proof, including reasonable attorney's fees. The court shall make the order unless it finds that (i) the request was held objectionable pursuant to Rule 36(a), or (ii) the admission sought was of no substantial importance, or (iii) the party failing to admit had reasonable ground to believe that he or she might prevail on the matter, or (iv) there was other good reason for the failure to admit.
N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 1A-1, 37
Rule 8 (c)
(b) Defenses; form of denials. -- A party shall state in short and plain terms his defenses to each claim asserted and shall admit or deny the averments upon which the adverse party relies. If he is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of an averment, he shall so state and this has the effect of a denial. Denials shall fairly meet the substance of the averments denied. When a pleader intends in good faith to deny only a part of or a qualification of an averment, he shall specify so much of it as is true and material and shall deny only the remainder. Unless the pleader intends in good faith to controvert all the averments of the preceding pleading, he may make his denials as specific denials of designated averments or paragraphs, or he may generally deny all the averments except such designated averments or paragraphs as he expressly admits; but, when he does so intend to controvert all its averments, he may do so by general denial subject to the obligations set forth in Rule 11.
N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 1A-1, 8
Wachovia Bank of N. Carolina, N.A. v. Bob Dunn Jaguar, Inc., 117 N.C. App. 165, 174, 450 S.E.2d 527, 533 (1994)