It is a common question in divorce: “Can my ex claim money from my new partner?” Or: “Can my new partner’s ex claim against me?” It seems to be a fear for most spouses going through the divorce process who are cohabiting, or thinking about cohabiting, with a new partner. When I receive questions like this, I always think: this time I will give a really short, clear answer. But just like my efforts at colouring in when younger, I end up going over the lines. So it is with my blog posts about English family law.
And so to the virtual postbag. This is the question, posed by C:
I would like to know that if my new partner and I got together (living or married) could his ex-wife claim on my monthly wage? Plus I own my house outright would she have any claim on that?
Each case turns on its own facts. This is what lawyers say all the time to just about every enquiry that comes in their direction. Put another way, it is essential to know the facts of a given situation if any advice is to be given in a legal context. To say anything useful in response to C’s question I will need to colour outside the lines. And I have written before about the status of co-habitees in family law. Now, as every regular reader of my blog will know, I do not, ever, give out advice. I can only make observations or prompt further questions for my readers to consider.
Can my ex claim money from my new partner?
So, in answer to C’s question, I can make the following points:
- Since it is your house, your new partner’s ex cannot make any claim against your property. Full stop.
- I presume that your reference to your new partner’s ex-wife means that he has obtained a divorce and a financial settlement. If he has NOT finalised his divorce and financial settlement, and you move in together, he must disclose that fact to his solicitors. If he does not have solicitors, then he must disclose that fact to his wife or her solicitors. This is called the duty of disclosure.
- If the divorce and financial settlement have not been sorted out yet, and you move in together then his ex’s solicitors may say that you represent a resource to your partner. The fact that you are housing him means that he may not need as much of the equity in his matrimonial home as his ex-wife. If your partner has children from his marriage and they are predominantly going to live with his ex-wife then she may say their housing needs should be added to her own housing needs so she should have more of the equity. And anyway, her lawyers may say, since you are helping your partner to address his housing needs, the ex-wife can how have more of the equity since he does not have as great a need.
- If the divorce and financial settlement have not been sorted, and the ex-wife wants spousal maintenance then she will say the fact that you are living together means that you are sharing your living expenses so perhaps this frees up a bit more income for spousal maintenance. But she cannot claim against your monthly income. That is your money – not your partner’s nor his ex-wife’s.
- But, if the divorce and financial settlement have been sorted then the impact of you living together is more limited. There should be a final court order dealing with the matrimonial finances. The key thing is whether the ex-wife has an order for spousal maintenance. If she does, then she may argue that moving in with you means that your partner is sharing his living costs with you so he can afford to pay his ex a bit more. The ex-wife may therefore make an application to vary her spousal maintenance upwards.
- And C should remember to consider protecting her own position in relation to her new partner if she lets him move in. What about a cohabitation agreement between you to sort out who pays what over the course of time?
I could go on quite a bit with these observations. The answer to “Can my ex claim money from my new partner?” is not as straightforward as it might appear. But I have almost worn down my crayons so time to pack it in.