Spousal Support and New Relationships

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BY: VALERIE DYE

When the court issues an order for the payment of spousal support the payor or the payee may at a later stage seek an order terminating spousal support or varying the amount of spousal support to be paid. One common reason for seeking a termination of spousal support is that either the payor or the payee is involved in a new relationship.  It is more common for the payor to seek a termination of spousal support because the payee is in a new relationship.

Case law suggests that new relationships do not necessarily end the obligation of the payor to pay spousal support even though it may affect the quantum of support that should be paid. In Blais v Blais 2015 ONSC the payor argued that spousal support should be terminated because the payee was involved in a new relationship and was receiving economic benefits from that relationship. The court rejected that argument and stated that the payee still had a financial need especially since she and her new partner together earned far less than the payor earned.

In the case of Juvatopolos v Juvatopolos 2004 ONSC the Ontario Superior Court considered the fact that the payee was in a new relationship. The court ruled that the payee’s new spouse had an obligation to support her but that did not remove the obligation from the former spouse to also continue support particularly if support was ordered on a compensatory basis. Nonetheless, the court found that since the payee was not making reasonable efforts to achieve self- sufficiency the quantum of spousal support would be reduced.

The Issue of a new relationship and spousal support also arises where the payor is the person involved in a new relationship and may find it burdensome to maintain a new relationship and pay spousal support at the same time. In Blanchet and Blanchet 2010 ONSC, the payor had a new relationship and a new child. He had been paying spousal support for twelve years and now felt that with a new family and his plans to retire soon there was a material change in circumstances which should allow him to cease paying spousal support. In handing down its decision not to terminate spousal support the court stated among other things that the payor’s new relationship did not usurp his obligation to pay spousal support to his former spouse.  Furthermore, the court referred to section 17 (7) of the Divorce Act which states that an order to vary the payment of spousal support should, among other things, relieve a former spouse from economic hardship suffered as a result of a breakdown in the marriage and promote the economic self-sufficiency of each former spouse within a reasonable period of time. Since in this case, the payee would suffer economic hardship without the spousal support the court ordered that spousal support should continue.

In Gray v Gray 2014 ONCA the Payor sought an order terminating or reducing spousal support. The court considered the fact that he had a new family who needed to be supported.  The court observed that In considering spousal support there is a need to balance competing interests. If those competing interests still allow the payor to continue paying support to his former spouse he will have to do so.

The conclusion to be drawn from the various case law is that where a former spouse enters into a new relationship with someone else this does not automatically end the obligation to pay or receive spousal support.

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