My ex has moved in with someone else – should I stop paying maintenance?

Spousal maintenance orders are normally expressed to be payable until the death of either party, or until the remarriage of the recipient of the maintenance.

But what if the recipient moves in with someone else? Is the maintenance still payable in such circumstances?

The initial answer is yes, the maintenance is still payable, unless the court orders otherwise.

In other words, if you think you should stop paying maintenance because your ex has moved in with someone else, you will have to ask the court to discharge (i.e. cancel) the maintenance order.

The first problem you may have with such an application is that your ex may deny that they are cohabiting. You will then need to prove to the court that they are.

The court will decide the issue taking into account all of the circumstances, including whether your ex and their new partner are members of the same household, whether they share a daily life, whether the relationship is stable, whether there is financial support from the new partner, and so on.

But even if you are able to prove that your ex is cohabiting that does not automatically mean that the court will discharge the maintenance order. The law does not treat cohabitation in the same way that it does remarriage.

Cohabitation is a relevant factor for the court to take into account when considering the level of maintenance, but nothing more.

Quite how the court will take it into account, if at all, will vary from one case to another.

And one of the main questions for the court to ask is: what should your ex’s new partner be contributing towards your ex’s budget? Note that it is not what they are contributing, but what they should be contributing – often, in such situations income may not be pooled, in order to try to avoid the maintenance being discharged.

And the apparent permanence of the new relationship will also be a relevant factor – the court is not going to discharge the maintenance order if it is not sure that the new relationship is going to last.

If the court finds that your ex is being supported by their new partner, but is unsure whether the relationship will be permanent, then it may reduce the maintenance order to a nominal amount, rather than discharging it entirely. In that way, the maintenance can later be reinstated, if the relationship should fail.

In short, in some cases the cohabitation may have a considerable bearing upon the maintenance, and in other cases it may not.

*          *          *

Family Law Cafe’s accessible team of legal experts from various disciplines expedites the customer’s case and keeps them informed and in control 24/7 through a unique and secure online portal. Family Law Cafe is your start-point for getting matters sorted with strategy, support and security.

Image: Public Domain, via Piqsels