Many of those paying their ex-spouse maintenance (alimony) hope their obligation to do so will stop, once their ex moves in with a new partner. However, things are not as simple as that.
This post was reviewed and updated on 15 July 2020
The duty to pay spousal alimony (normally an average duration of 5 years) ends:
- when the receiving ex-spouse re-marries;
- should the receiving ex-spouse live with a new partner, under the covenant of a registered partnership;
- in the case of the receiving ex-spouse living with a new partner, as if they were married or as if they had signed a registered partnership. Crucial is that the ex-spouse admits to be living with a new partner. However, things can get messy here. For example, the new relationship can be denied by the receiving ex-spouse for the sake of ongoing alimony payments. Thus, it is essential that ex-spouses-to-be make sound agreements on the circumstances that may prematurely end spousal alimony payments. Doing so will not only prevent potential conflict-material, but it can actually bring advantages to both parties.
Score a win – win
A possible agreement between divorcing spouses could be that alimony payments go on for 6 months after the receiving spouse has moved in with his or her new partner. The advantage to the receiving ex-spouse is that he or she could give the new relationship a try, without the looming doom of losing partner alimony. The advantage to the paying ex-spouse is that things have a better chance to work out well, since his or her ex can start a new relationship without the risk of nearing financial loss.
Avoiding the subject: prepare for pain
If no previous agreements were made, things can get really messy. The receiving ex-spouse may deny to be living in a new relationship, leaving the burden of proof on the paying ex-spouse. The lawmaker’s wording of ‘living together as if they were married’ is not obvious to interpret. For a judge to rule in favour of the paying ex-spouse wanting to end his or her alimony obligations, all of the following must apply. The receiving ex-spouse must have:
1) a long term relationship with the new partner, 2) based on affective attachment, 3) leading to the partners to care and provide for each other’s needs on a regular basis, 4) whilst living together, 5) within a joint household.
Now, how do you credibly prove all of the above?!
Hiring a private eye?
Some paying ex-spouses consider hiring a detective. The detective could find evidence of circumstances leading to a termination of their payment obligations. However, it is rather difficult to prove anything beyond the fact that the two scrutinised parties have a relationship and do ‘fun things’ together. Especially ‘caring and providing for each other on a regular basis, within the joint household ‘ is a provision difficult to prove. Also, a detective can’t really much about the durability of an affective relationship unfolding between the parties under observation.
Making sound agreements is definitely the better option. As always, it saves time, money and energy. It also preserves one’s sense of dignity and keeps one in charge, whatever the future may bring.
Dylan Bertsch is a specialist in family law, particularly partner and child maintenance. Diligent and outcome-focused, Dylan helps his clients through advice, mediation and representation in court.
Within family law, Dylan assists with complex divorces, prenuptial agreements, the division of commonly held property, first name changes and maintenance cases.