Do I Need to Pay Maintenance to My Ex-wife When I Remarry?

11 December 2017

If you pay spousal maintenance to your ex-wife and you remarry, your new marriage will have no bearing on this and you will need to continue making spousal maintenance payments. However, if your ex-wife remarries then this would automatically terminate the Maintenance Order between you.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is an income that a person pays to their ex-spouse after divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. This is often awarded by a judge or agreed (with consent) in a Court Order, following a financial application to the Court.

The purpose of spousal maintenance is to balance out the finances of the couple in a fair way. It may be that during a relationship, one person has financially supported the other while they gave up work to raise the children, or it may be that one is a higher earner and has supported the other because of this. As such, the person in a stronger financial position may be required to continue supporting their ex after separation.

When spousal maintenance is ordered by a Judge or agreed between the couple, this can either apply indefinitely or have a number of limitations or trigger points set, at which point the arrangement will end. For example, a trigger point may be when the youngest child turns 18, or when the spouse receiving the payments moves in with a new partner.

How to Reduce or Change Maintenance Payments

A Maintenance Order is always able to be varied (upwards or downwards) or terminated, and an application for this can be made by either person. An application to vary is usually requested following a significant change of circumstances that has occurred since the Court make the original Order. These circumstances may include, but are not limited to:

  • A significant increase/decrease in either person’s income
  • Inheritance that has been received by either person
  • Retirement of either person
  • Cohabitation of either person (although the recipient’s cohabitation is more likely to lead to a review of maintenance than the cohabitation of the payer).

It is however important to remember that none of these circumstances will lead to an automatic termination of a Maintenance Order. The Court will decide to vary or terminate a Maintenance Order based on the couple’s individual circumstances, with first consideration being given to the welfare of any children of the family. The court will also consider whether the variation or termination of the Maintenance Order would cause either person any undue hardship or difficulty.

You must also consider that when the Court receives an application, it has the power to consider whether it would be more appropriate to “capitalise” the maintenance. This means that rather than continuing maintenance payments, the Court might instead order a lump sum payment to be made. After a one-off lump sum had been paid to the recipient, ongoing maintenance would terminate.

Variation of a Maintenance Order

An application for a variation of a Maintenance Order will need to be submitted in the same way as the original application for a Financial Order was.

The application can be started by one person completing and submitting the application to the Court, using a “Form A”. The couple will then be required to attend a Mediation Assessment Information Meeting (MIAM), providing neither person falls into one of the category exemptions.

The couple will then be expected to follow the same process as they followed in their original application for a Financial Order, exchanging all relevant paperwork and attending Court as required.

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