Former Wife’s Polyamorous Relationship Does Not Justify Termination of Former Husband’s Maintenance Obligation

Justice Phillip R. Rumsey of New York’s Cortland County Supreme Court has given the New York matrimonial bar a wonderful Christmas present with his recent decision in the case Hunsinger v. Hunsinger, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op 51633(U). Judge Rumsey describes a cast of characters and salacious shenanigans that are amusing, even by Manhattan standards – let alone for rural Cortland County.

The Hunsingers entered into a marital settlement agreement that was incorporated in a divorce judgment and that provided for the payment of maintenance to the former wife until her “remarriage”. According to the decision, the former wife did not remarry. Instead, according to Mr. Hunsinger, Ms. Hunsinger entered into a polyamorous relationship with a married couple (the Hills) that involved her living with the Hills, wearing a “wedding ring” with “three intertwined bands”, and holding herself out as being married to the Hills.

Judge Rumsey correctly observes that even if Mr. Hunsinger’s allegations regarding Ms. Hunsinger’s alleged polyamorous relationship are accepted as true, Ms. Hunsinger has not legally remarried because under New York law, a polyamorous marriage is void, ab initio. Accordingly, Judge Ramsey correctly holds that under the terms of the parties’ separation agreement, no event has occurred that would trigger the cessation of the maintenance obligation.

As Judge Ramsey hints at in his decision, beyond the fact that Mr. Hunsinger is missing out on all sorts of adventures at the Hill residence, he is the victim of an agreement that was, in all likelihood, sloppily drafted. It has been many years (perhaps several decades) since New York divorce lawyers drafted marital agreements providing for cessation of maintenance solely upon the payee’s remarriage. Rather, marital settlement/separation agreements in New York now routinely provide that maintenance will end if the recipient “remarries and/or cohabits with an unrelated adult, whichever occurs first” (or language to similar effect). Such language is now standard because too many husbands found themselves in the position that Mr. Hunsinger now claims to be experiencing, to wit: watching his former wife reap the benefits of his maintenance payments while she also lives the good life with the Hills.

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