My virtual postbag brings me a question from P: a common question about the relationship between the payment of child maintenance and cohabitation. P obtained a consent order dealing with financial matters arising out of divorce. The only problem being that her ex has interpreted the terms of the consent order in a way that has a detrimental financial impact upon P. She tells me:
“Paragraphs 2&3 are relevant. My ex-husband believes that because I have been cohabitating with my new partner for 12 months (2c) he has no legal obligation to pay child maintenance (paragraph 3).”
There is often confusion on the part of maintenance payers between spousal maintenance and child maintenance. Spousal maintenance is paid by one spouse to the other after divorce. Lawyers refer to it as spousal periodical payments. Let’s have a look at the relevant paragraph in P’s consent order that requires her ex to pay her spousal maintenance:
OK. So we can see here that there is a reference in paragraph 2 c to P’s spousal periodical payments terminating in the event that she cohabits with another for a period of 12 months. Cohabitation with a new partner can be a common terminating event for spousal maintenance. Let’s then look at an entirely separate paragraph dealing with child maintenance (referred to as periodical payments):
The order requiring P’s ex to pay child maintenance to her for the benefit of their child is entirely separate (as I would expect) from the paragraph dealing with spousal periodical payments. The payments of child maintenance cease when the child reaches age 18 or ceases full time secondary education. The payments of child maintenance DO NOT CEASE if P cohabits with another for a period of 12 months. Unfortunately, P’s ex has misunderstood the terms of the order. He has linked the child maintenance and cohabitation. It is P’s spousal periodical payments that have ceased (or will cease) upon 12 months of cohabitation. This has nothing to do with child maintenance. But that misunderstanding has a serious financial impact upon P’s child. The payment of child maintenance and cohabitation are not linked in this consent order.
Perhaps P could refer her ex to this blog post so he can see how the confusion has arisen. He should then reinstate the payments of child maintenance for his child. At the end of the day, these payments of child maintenance are not for P’s benefit but for the child.