Spousal maintenance – How long can you be expected to financially support your ex?

If you are making spousal maintenance payments to your ex, you will understandably question whether you are still expected to pay when they have moved a new partner in and no longer seems to be having to manage on their own.

What is spousal maintenance?  

Spousal maintenance is a regular sum of money that is agreed as part of a financial settlement between divorcing parties when of you has no income or has much lower earnings than the other.

In some cases the agreement will involve regular payments for a set period of time, to give the other partner time to get on their feet financially and become self-supporting. There are also situations where the arrangement is left open, for example when one person has given up their career to bring up children and is now at a disadvantage on the labour market and unlikely to be able to support themselves.

What happens to spousal maintenance when the recipient remarries or starts cohabiting?

Spousal maintenance stops once the recipient remarries. However, if the recipient is cohabiting with a new partner it does not automatically mean that spousal maintenance will no longer be paid.

If you are paying spousal maintenance and believe that your ex’s financial circumstances have changed as a result of a new partner sharing the expenses, you can apply to the courts for a reassessment. This also applies if your own circumstances change and you are struggling to keep up with payments.

As well as being required to establish that your ex and their new partner are actually living together under the same roof, you will also need to demonstrate that it has had an impact on their personal circumstances and that they no longer require the level of financial support they once did. Your ex may claim that the new relationship is in its early stages and might not last, or that their new partner cannot afford to support them. However, if the new partner is contributing to household expenses you may be able to argue that the financial situation upon which the original agreement was based is no longer valid.

Laura Mounsey is a family lawyer with experience of working on cases involving properties, trusts, businesses and pensions.  Laura is a dedicated and talented lawyer who has been recognised with a “Safe Pair of Hands” Award.

Everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon.  If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk.