In a prior Blog, we emphasized that a spouse’s obligation to support his or her Ex-spouse does not end automatically once the Ex remarries or begins living with another partner. However, any Family Court asked to consider whether it should end at that point will (among other things) examine the new relationship and take into account into account any benefits that the Ex receives on account of it.
The decision in Boddington v. Boddington is a handy case study on how a support-seeking Ex-wife, in her failed bid to keep receiving spousal support from her former husband, went wrong by trying to hide the extent of those new-relationship advantages and benefits.
The wife and husband had split after 16 years of marriage. Although she admitted to having an affair with a man named Wilson prior to separation – and indeed moved in with him immediately after – the wife claimed that they were now “just friends” and that their shared living arrangement was merely intended to help him out financially.
The court was asked to examine the facts in order to determine whether the wife was still entitled to spousal support from the husband, as she claimed. In short – the answer was “no”. Not only did the court refuse to award her ongoing spousal support from the husband, but it also cancelled any outstanding arrears he may have owed, and ordered the wife to pay costs.
First of all, the court concluded that the wife had no real ongoing marriage-related financial “need” that should be addressed through support from the former husband. But even leaving that aside, the main reason for dismissing the wife’s support claim was her evidence: the court concluded it was largely untruthful, and – more to the point – her claim that she and Wilson were “just friends” was obviously self-serving and false. The wife had been vague, defensive and evasive in the witness box, and had minimized Wilson’s relationship to her, as well as his financial status and contribution.
A more realistic version of the facts suggested that the wife and Wilson actually had more of a spousal relationship, one that the court said was “way beyond being ‘just friends’”. Only four months after separation, they opened a joint bank account together and the wife moved her cattle onto Wilson’s farm; he then transferred his land into her name as tenant-in-common. Most tellingly, on her income tax returns the wife declared a partnership interest in that farm and identified Wilson as her “spouse”.
As the court, repeating the argument of the husband’s lawyer, said: “You do not file tax returns together if you are ‘just friends’”.
The court concluded: “All of the evidence only points to one conclusion: that the [wife] moved in with Mr. Wilson and lived with him as his spouse, sharing both his bed and his business, as well as title to his property.”
The wife’s claim for spousal support was accordingly dismissed.
For the full text of the decision, see: