Article updated May 2023
“My ex is now living with a new partner. Can I stop or reduce child maintenance payments?”
No. There are no grounds for reducing child maintenance on the basis that your ex is living with a new partner. Child maintenance remains payable regardless of their new living arrangements.
However, if your circumstances change, for example, if you lose your job or have another child for whom you are financially responsible, you may be able to request that the Child Maintenance Service re-evaluate the amount of child maintenance payable.
Another common question is, do I have to pay child maintenance if my ex remarries? Whether you have remarried, or your ex-partner has remarried has no bearing on your child maintenance obligations. So, if your ex marries a new partner, you will still be required to pay child maintenance.
A similar principle applies to spousal maintenance, also known as periodical payments.
You will still be required to pay any spousal maintenance when your former spouse moves in with a new partner. However, if they remarry, the obligation to pay spousal maintenance automatically ends.
You may also be able to change the amount of spousal maintenance payable, or the duration of the agreement, during the lifespan of the legal order. However, it would be necessary to make an application to the Court.
Spousal maintenance is typically ordered to end at a specified time, for example, after an agreed number of years, once the youngest child reaches 18, on the death of either party, or of the party receiving payments remarries. However, there are exceptions.
The original court order will have set out the terms of your spousal maintenance agreement, including how much you should pay and the circumstances in which the agreement will reach and end.
What would the Court consider?
If you chose to make a court application to vary spousal maintenance, what would the Court consider before making a decision? You would need to show the Court that there has been a change in either your financial circumstances or those of your ex-spouse.
Your ex living with a new partner would not necessarily be enough justification. You would need to go a few steps further. Points to consider include:
- Does your ex live with their new partner full time?
- Is your ex-spouse is being supported financiallyby their new partner
- Who pays the rent or mortgage on their home?
- Does their new partner contribute towards the bills?
- Are they living in a home owned outright by their new partner, reducing their living costs?
It may be that you are struggling to meet the payments due to a change in your own personal circumstances. You may have lost your job, or your income may not have kept pace with inflation and the rising cost of living. Your current financial situation may look very different to when your spousal maintenance order was made.
Alternatively, you may have remarried and had more children, meaning your income is stretched further than it was before.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, then you may have grounds to vary the spousal maintenance order.
As always, the Court will consider the welfare of any children whilst making a decision and where possible will wish to give the party receiving payments time to adjust to a change in income to limit the risk of hardship.
The Judge has wide discretion to determine whether the payments should come to an end, be suspended, or go up or down. They can even make an order for the spousal maintenance to effectively be paid off in one or more lump sums, provided there is enough capital.
There is a duty upon the Court to consider a clean break at the earliest opportunity. If the circumstances allow it, you may be able to get the spousal maintenance order terminated.
A word of warning however. The success of applications to the court to vary existing arrangements depends very much on the specific facts of each case. It is essential to consult a lawyer before you look to change your spousal maintenance payments.
Get in touch
If you would like any advice about child maintenance or spousal maintenance, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our specialist family lawyers.