In many BC family law matters, spousal support is a contested issue. Spouses often disagree on entitlement to spousal support and the amount or duration of spousal support payments. Does Spousal Support End If You or Your Former Spouse Gets Remarried? In many BC family law matters, spousal support is a contested issue. Spouses often disagree on entitlement to spousal support and the amount or duration of spousal support payments. Another big question our clients ask our team of BC family lawyers https://www.bronsonco.com/other-practice-areas/fam... is whether spousal support ends when one of the spouses remarries or begins living with a new partner. Generally speaking, the mere fact that a spouse remarries or begins a new relationship does not automatically result in a change to spousal support obligations. However, each case is unique and there are situations where spousal support may be terminated – or reduced in amount or duration – because of remarriage. These changes will depend on the nature of the support being paid as well as which spouse remarries or begins a new relationship. Before we discuss the factors for consideration upon remarriage of a spouse, we should review some spousal support basics. BC Spousal Support Basics First, some terminology: a “recipient spouse” is the spouse who receives spousal support, while the “payor spouse” is the spouse who pays spousal support. Second, it is important to emphasize that the status of being married does not automatically entitle a spouse to support. Rather, entitlement to spousal support must be established by the spouse claiming support on the basis of one or more of the following grounds: 1. Compensatory – this ground recognizes that when a marriage ends, spouses are entitled to be compensated for contributions to the marriage and for economic losses sustained as a result of the marriage. For example, compensatory support is often ordered at the end of a long marriage where the recipient spouse stayed at home to raise children, while the payor spouse built a career outside of the home during the marriage. 2. Non-compensatory (also known as “needs based”) – this ground recognizes that marriage is a joint endeavor premised on mutual support and that a spouse may have an obligation to meet or contribute to the needs of their former spouse if they have the capacity to do so. Non-compensatory support is determined based on the needs of the recipient spouse and the means of the support payor. 3. Contractual – this ground requires determination of whether an agreement exists between the spouses with respect to spousal support (e.g. a marriage contract or separation agreement that says spousal support will end or be reduced when the support recipient enters a new relationship). BC courts will consider a number of factors in determining entitlement to spousal support including the length of the marriage and the functions performed by the spouses during the marriage. If entitlement is established, the court will then determine which ground or grounds for entitlement form the basis of the spousal support award. These grounds for the award of spousal support will be important to the question of whether a subsequent remarriage ends or reduces the spousal support obligation. Now that we have reviewed some of the basics of BC spousal support, let’s return to the question of whether spousal support ends on remarriage. As you will see, the answer largely depends on whether the spouse that remarried is the payor spouse or the recipient spouse. Does Spousal Support End if the Payor spouse remarries? If you are the payor spouse and you remarry or move in with a new partner, spousal support does not automatically end. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that the court will consider the new relationship or its financial demands as grounds for terminating or reducing spousal support payable to your former spouse. This is because of the objectives of spousal support as established by the Divorce Act, which include relieving economic hardship arising from breakdown of the marriage, recognizing any economic disadvantages to the spouses arising from the marriage or its breakdown, and apportioning between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of any child of the marriage. In the eyes of the law, entering a new relationship and taking on new obligations does not relieve a payor spouse of support obligations that arose in the earlier relationship. It should be noted that there are very limited exceptions to the law that may permit a payor spouse to terminate spousal support due to the payor spouse’s remarriage. Does Spousal Support End if the Recipient Spouse Remarries? BC spousal support is not automatically terminated or reduced when the support recipient remarries or moves in with a new partner. However, support paid to a recipient spouse may be terminated or reduced if the payor spouse is able to satisfy the court that the new marriage or relationship meets the definition of a “material” or significant change in circumstances. The grounds for entitlement to spousal support are of great significance when the court considers whether to change an award for spousal support. For example, if the original spousal support order was based on non-compensatory (i.e., needs based) grounds, and the recipient spouse remarries a new partner whose income is higher than the payor spouse, it may warrant termination of spousal support. However, if there was also a compensatory basis for the original spousal support order (e.g., to recognize the disadvantages to the recipient spouse after a long marriage where the recipient spouse was an at-home parent), termination of support may not be warranted, but the amount and/or the duration of spousal support may be reduced. Conversely, if the first marriage was short, the spouses were relatively young, and the support recipient experienced only limited financial consequences as a result of the first marriage, a new marriage is much more likely to warrant termination of spousal support. Have More Questions? Contact our BC Spousal Support Lawyers for Advice Each case is unique and whether remarriage or re-partnering will have an impact on spousal support obligations depends on your personal circumstances. If you have questions about how the law applies to you, contact the Bronson Jones & Company LLP team of BC spousal support lawyers today at 1-855-852-5100 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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