After a separation or divorce, spousal support arrangements are made to ensure financial fairness between ex-partners. But over time, life circumstances evolve, and changes to spousal support might be necessary. This week, we discuss one scenario which can lead to changes to spousal support: second (or subsequent) marriages or serious relationships.
Changes to Spousal Support after Subsequent Marriages
Spousal support Orders can be for a set period of time, or they last indefinitely. Changes to spousal support might be granted if one partner’s material circumstances shift. One example of changing material circumstances is when a partner enters another serious relationship. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines reads (emphasis added):
Under the current law the remarriage or repartnering of the support recipient does not mean the automatic termination of spousal support, but support is often reduced and sometimes even terminated. Much depends upon whether support is compensatory or non-compensatory, as well as the length of the first marriage, the age of the recipient, the duration and stability of the new relationship and the standard of living in the recipient’s new household.
Redpath v. Redpath, 2008 BCSC 68 is an example of a case where a subsequent relationship resulted in changes to spousal support, because there was evidence of a material change in circumstances. The reasons for this decisions were summarized by Justice Savage:
 [....] The defendant and her new partner married in September 2007. The new partner had substantial assets and an annual income in excess of $650,000 compared to the plaintiff’s income of $260,000. [The Judge] specifically held that the commencement of cohabitation may, in and of itself, be sufficient grounds for a payor to make application under s. 17 of the Divorce Act (para. 91). In the result, [the Judge] found that there had been a material change in circumstances through the defendant’s relationship and ordered that spousal support cease from the date that the defendant and her new partner began cohabitation. In making this order, Warren J. focused on the defendant’s deliberate failure to disclose the particulars of her new relationship.
Changes to Spousal Support Aren’t Guaranteed
Just because one party enters a new relationship does not guarantee that changes to spousal support will be ordered. Decisions are made based on many variables, as described in the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines above.
For example, in the Morigeau v. Moorey, 2013 BCSC 1923 case, changes to spousal support were denied due to a lack of evidence proving a material change in circumstance:
Changes to Spousal Support Summary
In summary, the decision to change spousal support is based on multiple factors. If one party enters a new relationship, there isn’t any guarantee that an existing spousal support order will be adjusted accordingly. If you think your spousal support order needs amendment, first speak with an experienced family lawyer to know your options and best prepare your case.