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Bad Romance: Alimony and Child Support When Your Ex Has a New Mate

A divorce does not usually spell the end of a person's ability to engage in intimate relationships. Many spouses find new partners and begin dating again after the dust of their divorce has settled. A new relationship is appealing because it gives people the chance to move beyond the painful memories of the past and begin a new chapter in their lives.

Unfortunately, a new relationship can also mean increased headaches for those with spousal and child support obligations. These duties may already present a burden with which many paying spouses struggle, both financially and emotionally; add to that the effects of dealing with an ex who has moved on and into a new relationship and this dynamic can become even more problematic. Payors may bemoan the fact that they must give hard-earned money to an ex they no longer love and support children they no longer see as often as they would like.

New relationships can also complicate matters as well as "add insult to injury." When your ex finds a new girlfriend or boyfriend, it is only natural to wonder if your support is still necessary; after all, the last thing you want to do is support this new mate too! Yet, unless the court modifies your support order, you must continue to make payments as ordered. You may, however, ask the court modify its previous order to account for this change in the dynamic.

When it comes to modifying child support, be advised that the court does not normally consider a new mate's income when making its calculation; unlike you and your ex, the new mate has no legal duty to support your children (unless he or she has adopted them). There are exceptions to this rule, such as if to exclude it would cause hardship for your children, but these are certainly rare exceptions. Also, the court can impute income to your ex if you are able to show that he or she is intentionally un or underemployed.

It can be easier to modify spousal support. For example, if you show that your ex's expenses have decreased because the new mate makes household contributions-such as paying rent, utilities, and car payments-these "perks" could be added to your ex's income as additional non-taxable income.

So, don't dismay if your ex finds a new love in his or her life; their chapter with you has closed and it is certainly their right, just as it is yours, to move forward in search of happiness. But be also mindful that this change in circumstance may very well open an opportunity to review your support situation and you should feel neither guilt nor hesitation in making the decision to do so.

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William A. Feinberg 1928 - 2001

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