Second marriages are more and more common as is cohabiting with a new partner after divorce. A frequently asked question is whether the new relationship will end spousal support. Let’s discuss whether spousal support is reduced because of a new partner’s financial contributions, and how a new partner’s income may be relevant when determining spousal support in BC family law proceedings.
Reasons to terminate spousal support
Canada’s Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (“SSAG”) suggest appropriate ranges of amount and duration of support for spouses who are entitled to support. Entitlement is the threshold question. Spousal support may be terminated if entitlement has ceased. The entitlement to spousal support can be revisited for any number of reasons, including the recipient spouse finding employment, the payor spouse’s permanent loss of employment or retirement. Re-partnering is also specifically contemplated by the SSAG as a reason to revisit entitlement to support.
Impact of repartnering on spousal support
The remarriage or repartnering of a spousal support recipient is a reason to reconsider entitlement. However, repartnering or remarriage does not mean the automatic termination of spousal support. Repartnering may have no impact in some cases. In other cases, support may be terminated or reduced because of repartnering. The question will be answered on a case-by-case basis and will depend in large part on whether support is compensatory or non-compensatory:
“Compensatory support” is intended to compensate a spouse for foregone careers and missed opportunities during the marriage. This is often the basis for support where one spouse had the primary responsibility for the care of children, was a full-time homemaker, worked outside the home part-time or worked as the secondary earner. In these such cases, there will be disadvantage and loss at the end of the marriage usually warranting compensatory support.
“Non-compensatory support” is also known as “needs-based” support. It is awarded if a spouse has an inability to meet basic needs but also covers a significant decline in standard of living from the marital standard. Common indicators of non-compensatory claims include longer marriages and a drop in standard of living for one spouse after separation.
Repartnering does not automatically reduce or eliminate do away with the basis for support. Other factors for consideration on the question of continued support are the age of the recipient, the ability of the recipient to become self-sufficient, the duration and stability of the new relationship and the standard of living in the recipient's new household.
Deciding if spousal support reduced because of new partner’s contributions
Negotiation between the former spouses and decision-making by the courts on issues surrounding the recipient's remarriage or repartnering are determined on a case-by-case basis. SSAG ranges are still a useful starting point for the analysis but there is no hard-and-fast rule or formula for calculating how a new partner’s income factors into the amount of spousal support to be paid and received. The court has discretion when it comes to making an order for spousal support and the same is true when it comes to adjustment of spousal support to account for repartnering by a recipient spouse. The following examples may give an illustration of how the analysis could play out:
Where spousal support is being paid to an older spouse who has difficulty becoming self-sufficient given an illness and/or their age after a long-term, traditional marriage where that spouse stayed out of the workforce to raise children, remarriage is unlikely to terminate spousal support although the amount may be reduced due to the new partner’s contribution to the household.
After a short-to-medium first marriage, where the recipient spouse is younger and the support is non-compensatory and for transitional purposes, remarriage by the recipient spouse is more likely to result in a reduction or termination of support.
Financial disclosure from spouse’s new partner
Financial disclosure from the recipient's new partner may be required—but only to a point. Privacy and proportionality will always be considered. A new partner’s income is relevant to determining that person’s contribution to the household and the recipient spouse’s expenses. The court may order disclosure of tax returns from the new partner. But extensive and intrusive information about the new partner’s assets, net worth, savings, and intimate financial affairs is generally speaking beyond the scope. A former spouse is not entitled to the “full financial picture” of a spouse’s new partner as of right. If the former spouse asks the court to compel financial disclosure, the privacy interests of the third-party new partner will be carefully balanced against the interests of the parties to the family law proceeding.
Contact Valerie M. Little to resolve spousal support issues
A new partner’s contributions can impact the amount of spousal support paid or received. If you are in a situation where you pay or receive spousal support and have questions about repartnering, contact Valerie M. Little, a divorce lawyer who deals will all aspects of support, including variation and retroactive spousal support.
She can provide you with peace of mind, practical solutions and clear legal advice. Email Valerie for help or telephone her office at 604-526-3333 to schedule your confidential family law initial consultation to get the answers to your family law questions.