In this modern age of serial relationships, multiple marriages and various couplings and un-couplings, I often get asked how spousal support entitlement is affected when the support recipient goes on to form a new relationship. In other words, if you are the spouse paying support to your Ex, does that obligation change if he or she remarries or starts seeing someone else?
The question is not an easy one to answer, because the outcome is very situation-dependent. It really depends on the facts, and this requires an examination of numerous elements involving not only you and your Ex, but (to a lesser extent) the contribution of his or her new partner as well.
With that said, some guidance can be found in a recent Ontario case called Strifler v. Strifler where the judge listed some of the numerous factors and principles that family courts should consider in determining the significance of a new relationship on a former spouse’s support entitlement.
First of all, the court made the important point that there is no automatic cut-off: If you are paying support to your Ex, he or she will not become disentitled simply because they have a new relationship on the go. Instead, whether or not you can reduce or eliminate your spousal support obligation will depend on several factors, including:
• the duration and stability of your Ex’s new relationship
• the value to your Ex of any benefit that he or she receives by reason of that new relationship
• the existence of any legal obligation on the part of your Ex’s new partner to provide support
• the economic circumstances of your Ex’s new partner (and this comparison will sometimes be made in relation to your own economic situation, as the paying spouse)
From a practical perspective, your Ex may be called upon justify continued spousal support from you, despite his or her cohabiting with or remarrying someone else. In this regard the courts do tend to acknowledge the reality that the longer your Ex has been in the new relationship, the greater the obligation on his or her partner to provide financial support to your Ex as well.
Finally, it’s important to consider the purpose of support payments in the first place. For example, if the ordered support is designed to be compensatory – meaning that it is aimed at compensating your Ex for the historically-based disadvantage suffered as a result of your marriage and its breakdown – then his or her marriage to or cohabitation with someone else does not affect that entitlement one way or the other. Again, it really depends on the facts.
For the full text of the decision, see: