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Family Law: Does Spousal Support Continue If You Remarry?

Law Articles

In Canada, the federal Divorce Act defines the rules for married couples who divorce. This legislation applies in all states and provinces, and the courts will decide if one spouse must pay maintenance to his or her ex-partner after the marriage ends. Of course, very often, your ex-partner may go on to marry somebody else, but a lot of people are unsure what this means to any spousal support arrangements. Learn more about the rules about spousal support, and find out what happens to these arrangements if your ex-partner remarries.

How Canadian courts calculate spousal support

While some marriages end on relatively good terms, a lot of couples' relationships end bitterly. In either case, estranged men and women normally seek their lawyers' support to help protect their income. If a case reaches the courts, a judge will generally treat your relationship like a financial partnership, and he or she will work through a complex series of criteria to decide who must pay what.

Factors that a judge may consider when determining spousal support arrangements include:

  • You and your ex-partner's financial means
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • Your children's care needs
  • How the marriage breakdown affects your financial position

In all cases, a judge will want to make arrangements that protect your children's welfare, but he or she will also try to make sure that both partners can ultimately become financially self-sufficient. Understandably, every case is unique, although you can get a rough calculation online for the sum of money involved based on some basic criteria.

Changes in you or your ex-partner's relationship status can also alter your financial means. In turn, this could affect a judge's ruling about spousal support.

Time limits and review processes

Spousal support agreements normally end after a fixed period. If your marriage was short, your spousal support agreement may end sooner than other couples' arrangements. Indeed, your lawyer will often ask the court to include an automatic review period to make sure the agreement is still right for both parties.

The law always expects people to support themselves as soon as they can, but you must apply to the court if you feel the agreement is now significantly unfair. A court will review the order based on several factors, but the judge will nearly always consider what it means to your financial status if your circumstances change. For example, if you or your ex-partner remarry, you are likely to have an increased family income. This could change how much you need to receive or how much you need to pay.

How a court reviews spousal agreements

It's important to understand that any change in personal circumstances does not allow you or your ex-partner to automatically cancel or reduce any spousal support payments. Unpaid spousal support payments (arrears) could land you in legal trouble. Indeed, in most parts of Canada, only a judge can cancel arrears payments related to a spousal support agreement, and you will need a good reason to ask for this type of ruling.

To review a spousal support agreement, a judge will look at the same factors that influenced the original arrangement. Again, every case is unique, but you should understand that the decision-making process is complex and time-consuming. In many cases, the decision considers the nature of any change in relationship, as well as any financial impacts.

For example, if your ex-wife remarries, a judge may not allow any change in spousal support payments if she was in the relationship when you first separated. What's more, some judges will set a spousal support arrangement as a form of compensation. For example, if your ex-wife suffered economic disadvantage during your marriage, a judge may set the spousal support value to compensate her. A new relationship does not change the effect the original marriage had on your ex-wife, so the payments are unlikely to change.

It's often difficult to predict the outcome of these cases, but certain factors are relatively consistent. A judge will often terminate or cut spousal support payments if:

  • The new (recipient) spouse is relatively young
  • The support agreement was transitional and non-compensatory
  • The first marriage was relatively short
  • There are no children from the first marriage

Crucially, a judge will not change a spousal support arrangement without thorough investigation and analysis, and it can take some time to get a decision. Similarly, a judge will not question the original agreement's validity. The review process will only consider how a change of circumstances affects the original support arrangement.

If you or your ex-spouse remarries, your spousal support agreement will continue unless you apply for a formal court review of the arrangement. For more legal advice, contact your local law office.


28 May 2015