Once the decision to divorce has been made, a financial settlement must be agreed and made official by the Court. However, if you have already entered into a new relationship by this time, there is a strong chance it could affect the amount you are awarded in the settlement.
Divorce can be an emotionally challenging time, but it’s not uncommon for one or both partners to meet someone new during the process. If this sounds familiar, you may be wondering how much of a role this will play in the judge’s decision. Or if your divorce is in the past but you or your ex-partner has since entered into a new relationship, you may be questioning whether the original arrangement is still fair.
While each case will be unique and weighed up individually, this blog should help you understand your financial position in a new relationship.
How will cohabitation affect my Divorce Settlement?
When making a final decision regarding your financial settlement, the courts will look at the needs of both parties and their individual circumstances. If you are cohabiting with your new partner, it’s highly likely that this will have an impact on your divorce settlement. This is due to the fact that cohabiting is generally seen as a serious move in a relationship, and in the eyes of a judge, it’s an indication that you have achieved stability – romantically as well as financially. As a result, if you and your new partner are cohabiting it will likely be assumed that your need is not as great as it were if you were single. The judge will take this into account when deciding on your settlement.
How will cohabitation affect Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance is often referred to as a ‘moveable feast’ due to how variable it can be. If you are the recipient of spousal maintenance, the original court order will set out how much you will be due each month as well as how long the payments are to be made for. However, this only remains a fixed amount so long as neither you nor your partner requests it to be updated. The court is entitled to make another order if, after assessment, they decide that the previous order no longer applies.
The court will consider making a new updated order if either the payer or the payee makes a variation application. Therefore, if you have entered into a new relationship and are cohabiting with your new partner, your ex-partner may decide it’s no longer appropriate to be paying the current amount of spousal maintenance, or vice versa. Once a variation application is issued, a hearing date will be fixed by the court in 4-8 weeks. During the hearing, the court will assess the financial disclosure of both parties and maker a decision on whether an updated court order is required, and if so, when it would take affect.
The court will not simply make a new order if one of you has started dating and meeting new people. The relationship will be analysed independently, but if it’s clear that both you and your new partner are cohabiting and in a serious relationship, the court may choose to make an order which states that maintenance will end after a specific period of cohabitation.
How will a new relationship affect Child Maintenance?
If you’re paying or receiving child maintenance after a divorce and you’ve begun a new relationship, this is not usually considered a reason for the payments to change. In the eyes of the law, both parents have a financial responsibility to their child until he or she is 16, or 20 if in full-time education. Your new partner does not have a legal obligation to be financially responsible for your child, so a court will rarely take their financial position into consideration.
Similarly, if you’re paying or receiving child maintenance payments and your ex-partner has started a serious relationship or married someone new, it’s unlikely to be legal grounds to change the agreed amount – regardless of their new partner’s income.
In most cases, there are two factors that can alter the amount of child support you are required to pay:
- A change in your income (not taking into account the finances of your new partner)
- Having more children of your own with a new partner
However, this doesn’t mean the payments aren’t negotiable at all. If you and your ex-partner are able to reach a new agreement between yourselves, you can amend the payments as you wish.
Getting help from the experts
We understand how tensions can run high even years after a divorce. Our divorce and family solicitors are experts in navigating the aftermath of a relationship breakdown and can help you find the best solution for you and your family as amicably as possible. Whether you’re considering divorce and you’re unsure about where you stand, or have questions about your current arrangement and are wondering what to do next, get in touch with our friendly team on 0203 857 9885.