Concerns about the impact of living with a new partner and how it will impact your divorce financial settlement are not unusual. As divorce solicitors, we help answer your questions on how your planned cohabitation with a new partner or your ex-spouse’s decision to spend a large proportion of their week with their new partner will affect the divorce financial settlement.
Does forming a new relationship affect the divorce financial settlement?
Forming a new relationship may affect your divorce financial settlement. It isn’t possible for divorce solicitors to give a definitive answer without more information about your personal and financial circumstances and those of your ex-spouse.
Although it is commonly assumed that the presence of a ‘’third party’’ will make a massive difference to a financial settlement that isn’t necessarily correct. That’s why it is best to speak to a divorce solicitor about your situation, and that of your ex-spouse, and to make sure that you don’t let the presence of a new partner adversely affect your judgment. If you do then it can be harder to set your feelings and emotions aside to focus on reaching a reasonable split of the family assets.
It is especially hard to come to terms with an ex-spouse meeting a new partner when the ex-partner has hidden the new relationship from you and you have found out about the new boyfriend or girlfriend through the backdoor. For example, from children, family friends, or, as is often the case, from posts and pictures on social media or from disclosure and questions within financial settlement court proceedings.
Is your ex-spouse cohabiting with a new partner?
If there is a new partner on the scene the first question, from a family law solicitors’ point of view, is whether the spouse is living with his or her new partner or if they are at an early stage of a new relationship and not cohabiting. Sometimes there are disputes about whether a couple are living together or not because:
- Of the financial consequences of cohabiting and
- The ex-spouse and their new partner are not living together on a full-time basis as they each keep a separate home base although they spend a lot of their week together and present as a couple
Working out if an ex-spouse is cohabiting with a new partner is important because if cohabitation can be established:
- Your ex-spouse may find it a lot more difficult to ask for spousal maintenance for themselves
- If there is already a financial court order in place you may be able to apply back to the family court to stop the spousal maintenance or to reduce the amount you pay
- If you are negotiating a divorce financial settlement, or you are involved in court proceedings, your ex-spouse may find it harder to argue that they need the same amount of money to rehouse themselves
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Proving that your ex-spouse is cohabiting with a new partner
It is not uncommon for there to be a dispute about whether an ex-spouse and their new partner are living together as a cohabiting couple.
Whether you are negotiating a divorce financial settlement by agreement or involved in divorce financial settlement court proceedings you and your ex-spouse are both under an obligation to provide full and frank financial disclosure. This includes disclosing your relationship status and the impact of your relationship on your housing and outgoings. For example, if you are living with a new partner are they sharing the rent and other outgoings? For example, if you plan to buy a new house with your partner does their savings and earnings capacity affect your ability to secure a bigger mortgage?
Financial disclosure and new relationships
The requirement to provide information about new relationships is contained in the court document (called a Form E) that needs to be completed by both a husband and wife in divorce financial settlement proceedings. Most family law solicitors also ask you to complete a Form E if you are negotiating a divorce financial settlement.
In addition to disclosing the existence of a new partner that you are living with (or plan to do so), you also need to provide details about the new partner’s financial circumstances. This requirement can be a cause for concern especially if a new relationship is in its early stages or a new partner is unwilling to provide information that may be used against them or may result in them being drawn further into acrimonious divorce financial settlement proceedings.
Non-disclosure of relevant personal matters or financial non-disclosure could be a basis for setting aside a financial agreement or a financial court order. If the non-disclosure is discovered during negotiations then trust can be lost making it harder to reach a divorce financial settlement. If the non-disclosure is revealed through questions asked during financial court proceedings the judge could draw adverse inferences against the person who hasn’t provided full and frank disclosure.
The relevance of a new relationship to a divorce financial settlement
There is often an argument that two homes are being maintained by the spouse and the new partner. It is then a case of establishing if, despite the two physical homes, the couple is in reality cohabiting because of the amount of time spent together and the financial links between the two of them.
In some situations, it can be in the financial interests of a spouse to say that they do have a new partner they are living with and have taken on financial responsibility for. That is because that may mean they have larger outgoings and therefore an argument to say that they can’t afford to pay as much spousal maintenance each month or they need to spend more on rehousing.
It is important to take objective family law legal advice on the relevance of an ex-spouse forming a new relationship when sorting out the financial division of property and assets. That’s because a lot of emotional and financial time and energy can be spent on exploring whether a separated spouse is in a new relationship and then whether, in reality, they are cohabiting together.
The job of a family finance solicitor is to quickly assess whether a new relationship will have an impact on the financial settlement or the financial court proceedings. Although a new partner can be a hot topic it can either be a red herring or one of the key factors in your negotiations or in the family court deciding how money and assets are divided. The relevance of a new partner all depends on individual family financial and personal circumstances.