How Does Remarriage Affect Spousal Support?fz1208
When spouses get divorced in California, the family court will often order one spouse to pay spousal support to the other, which is known as “alimony” and described under California Family Code 4300. If the spouse who is receiving alimony get remarried, the spouse who is paying their support typically wants to stop making payments.
Our divorce lawyers are often asked whether a spouse paying alimony has to keep paying if their ex-spouse cohabitates with someone or they get remarried. The purpose of this article is to explain how cohabitation or remarriage can affect spousal support obligations.
What is alimony?
In California, the term “alimony” is just another word for spousal support. It’s designed to provide financial support to an ex-spouse to maintain their stand of living.
Alimony normally occurs in monthly payments from one ex-spouse to the other for a certain amount of time. However, some spouses will pay alimony in one lump sum by transferring property.
Family courts will award spousal support to give financial assistance for a spouse who earns less or unemployed:
- the amount of the award is always based on the financial circumstances of each spouse;
- spousal support payments will have a specific termination date, such as short term alimony payments normally last about one-half the length of the marriage.
Some spouses include a provision in a prenuptial agreement that lays out exactly when alimony payments will cease.
So, as you can see, a common question for couples who are divorced in California is whether a spouse’s remarriage will stop alimony payments. Another related question deals with a spouse not getting remarried, but cohabitates and shares expenses with a new partner.
If one spouse gets remarried, then traditional alimony obligations will be terminated. You should have a California family law attorney review the current spousal support orders to determine if you can legally stop making payments.
Different Types of Alimony Affected by Remarriage
California Family Code 4337 states that an obligation to pay spousal support will automatically terminate when a spouse gets remarried. Further, the spouse paying support doesn’t have file any type of motion and the family court need not act.
Family Code 4334 states that the spouse receiving support has to notify the other spouse about the remarriage. If they fail to let them know, then the court can order their ex-spouse a refund for excessive alimony payments.
It should be noted, however, if the receiving spouse is owed overdue support, then remarriage will not terminate the obligation. Further, couples who are getting divorced can waive provisions in Family Code 4337 and remarriage will not impact alimony.
Negotiation of alimony agreements
In California, couples getting a divorce can reach a mutual spousal support agreement on their own, or they can go to a family court to request it. The family court can order:
- short-term alimony payments,
- long-term support, or
- lump-sum awards.
In most cases, a spouse getting remarried normally affects the long-term alimony agreements.
As stated above, Family Code 4337 says spousal support payments will automatically terminate when their ex-spouse gets remarried, unless there was a prior agreement in writing.
In other words, when an ex-spouse is remarried, the act just overrides court ordered alimony payments in California.
Other Rules Associated with Ending Alimony Payments for Spouse Remarriage
There are also several relevant rules that apply to alimony and other obligations after a spouse receiving support gets remarried:
- child support payments are not impacted by remarriage,
- spousal support arrears are not impacted by remarriage,
- mutually agreed obligations in divorce settlements are not impacted by remarriage,
- spousal supports payments made with property transfers are not impacted by remarriage.
When you are notified about an upcoming remarriage by your ex-spouse, you should consult with a family law attorney before stopping spousal support payments.
In order to protect yourself, keep making alimony payments until confirmation of the remarriage is received.
Does Cohabitation Impact Alimony in California?
California Family Code 4323 states there is a rebuttable presumption alimony can be reduced or terminated when a spouse receiving support cohabitates with another person.
In other words, the family court “presumes” a reduction or termination is spousal support is the appropriate action unless they are shown evidence the payments should continue.
If your ex-spouse will not mutually agree to reduce or terminate alimony after they cohabitate with another person, then you can file a motion with the family law court to modify support order.
The judge won’t consider the income of the cohabitant, rather just the spouse’s new financial circumstances.
It should be noted that the term “cohabitation” is not just being roommates. Normally, it requires some type of intimate or personal relationship, but the court still modify alimony if it’s only a roommate situation.
Substantial Change in Circumstances – Family Code 4336
There are many situations where couples will live together without getting married. In this scenario, spousal support doesn’t automatically end, but could be modified or terminated due to changed circumstances.
When an ex-spouse cohabitates with someone that is similar to a marital relationship, it normally qualifies as a “substantial change in circumstances” that will support a family court order under California Family Code 4336 to terminate spousal support.
A spouse who is paying alimony can submit a petition to the California family law court to terminate payments or seek a recalculation.
Further, they can request that their ex-spouse show the family court why their alimony should not be ended because of the change in their economic circumstance.
The paying spouse will need to include in their termination petition supporting evidence, such as:
- marriage certificate,
- spousal support order,
- sworn statements from family or friends on cohabitation,
- evidence that the ex-spouse has a new address,
- communication from ex-spouse about cohabitation.
The family court might order the ex-spouse to give them an expense update or provide more information about their financial situation.
If the family court judge decides to terminate or modify the spousal support due to the cohabitation, then the paying spouse could ask for reimbursement. Further, if the ex-spouse concealed the change in circumstance, they could request a refund.
Family Law Attorneys in California for Spousal Support Issues
If you learn that your ex-spouse has remarried or now cohabitates, don’t just stop making court ordered spousal support payments.
You need to first consult with a California family attorney to take a close look at the divorce settlements and relevant support orders from the court.
In most situations, an ex-spouse will not just voluntarily provide information about their remarriage when they know it will automatically terminate their spousal support payments.
If you overpaid spousal support due to a change in circumstance, then you can seek recovery if your ex-spouse knowingly hid their remarriage.
If you need more information about terminating spousal support payments, then you should contact our family law attorneys.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers representing individuals throughout Southern California.
Our office is located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 17207 Ventura Blvd. #2 Encino, CA 91316.
Contact our firm a free consultation at (818) 528-3471