Does spousal maintenance under Montana law end after another marriage? Wolf v. WolfMarybeth Sampsel
Sometimes called “alimony” or “spousal support,” maintenance is the word Montana law uses to describe financial support from one party to the other after a dissolution. Though maintenance seems to be more and more rare these days, due in large part to the troubled economy and the decrease in the number of couples that can survive on one income, it remains an issue in a number of Montana divorces.
A recent Montana Supreme Court case discussed spousal maintenance obligations after a spouse remarries. In re the Marriage of Holly Wolf and Walter Wolf, was decided on August 11, 2011. The Montana Supreme Court determined that Montana statute cutting off a maintenance obligation after a subsequent marriage is clear: unless you agree in writing otherwise and it is expressly provided for in the decree of dissolution, the obligation to pay maintenance is terminated upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance.”
Unfortunately, Appellee Holly Wolf had to find this out the hard way. According to the Court’s decision, Ms. Wolf was receiving spousal maintenance from her husband Walter in the amount of $4,000 per month until her son graduated high school and then for $6,000 per month thereafter. According to the Dissolution Agreement signed by Holly and Walter, the maintenance obligation was to continue until Holly’s death. The Agreement went on to state that Holly’s maintenance payment would decrease to $2,000 per month if she lived with someone for over 6 months in an intimate way. The Dissolution Agreement, however, did not provide for maintenance after Holly remarried. In 2008, Holly remarried and Walter stopped paying maintenance.
The Montana Supreme Court determined that M.C.A. 40-4-208(4) (which states that maintenance is terminated upon death or remarriage unless expressly agreed otherwise) is serious. Since Holly and Walter did not expressly include a statement about whether or not maintenance should terminate upon Holly’s remarriage, the maintenance obligation terminated upon Holly’s remarriage.
The lesson here is: if you are eligible for spousal maintenance and intend to continue receiving it even after a subsequent remarriage, MAKE SURE you expressly include that language in your Property Settlement Agreement AND the Court’s Decree of Dissolution. If you didn’t make sure to do so, don’t get remarried without thinking through the financial ramifications.