What types of evidence do courts want to hear to disprove cohabitation?
In Harris v. Harris, Record No. 1957-11-2 (Va. Ct. App. 2012), an ex-husband sought to terminate his spousal support obligation on the basis that his ex-wife was cohabiting in a relationship analogous to a marriage for over one year. In that case, the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s finding that the ex-wife and her boyfriend do not live together. Here is the evidence in a nutshell:
Evidence of Separate Residences:
– The ex-wife testified that her boyfriend maintained a separate residence.
– The boyfriend testified that he maintained a separate residence.
– The boyfriend testified that he was not living at the ex-wife’s house.
– The parties’ daughter testified that she saw the boyfriend only once or twice a week.
– The parties’ daughter testified that she would sometimes not see the boyfriend for two weeks.
– The ex-wife’s friends testified that they did not see any men’s clothing in the house.
Evidence of Cohabitation:
– The ex-wife and her boyfriend had a long-term romantic relationship.
– The boyfriend kept his motorcycle at the ex-wife’s home.
– The boyfriend kept his snowblower at the ex-wife’s home.
– The boyfriend was presumably at the ex-wife’s home a significant amount despite having his own home.
So what was the essential bit of evidence in the trial court’s eyes? According to the Virginia Court of Appeals, the trial court “based its conclusion on the fact that the boyfriend did not keep clothes at wife’s house.” So what does this mean? You simply never know what bit of evidence is going to be that final piece that sways a judge.