BURNS v. BURNS (Supreme Court, Monroe County)

The parties negotiated a separation agreement which provided for payment of maintenance by the defendant-husband to the plaintiff-wife until November 2020.  The agreement did not contain a provision for the usual termination events (i.e. death of either spouse or remarriage of recipient).  The plaintiff remarried in December 2015 and in April 2016, the defendant ceased paying maintenance.  The plaintiff filed an order to show cause seeking a money judgment for the unpaid maintenance.  Defendant contested that when a separation agreement is silent on termination events, ordered maintenance terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient, in this case the plaintiff.  Plaintiff argues that in this situation, the court must look to the parties’ intentions to determine if there is an implicit promise to pay maintenance through the end of the term of the agreement.

After review of extensive case law which states that maintenance ends when the recipient remarries, the Court felt that it must terminate any requirement of defendant to pay plaintiff maintenance, thereby denying plaintiff’s application for an order enforcing the maintenance requirements beyond the date of her remarriage.