Your marriage might officially end when the judge signs your divorce decree, but that doesn’t necessarily end your divorce case.
One party is often ordered to pay spousal support, often referred to as alimony. If children are involved, child support is typically ordered and there are often lingering custody issues to work out. When financial circumstances change, one party might ask the court to modify the amount or duration of the support payments.
A common situation that occurs is that one of the parties remarries or begins cohabiting with a new partner. When that occurs, a number of questions arise regarding how this change impacts the payment of child support and/or spousal support.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the financial impact of remarriage after divorce.
If my ex-spouse remarries, does it affect my child support?
Generally, remarriage will not have an impact on child support since the new husband has no legal obligation to the children.
The kids are still the responsibility of their parents, and the court bases the child support order on the income of the parents.
This can create conflict if the children’s mother marries someone of considerable wealth. Many divorced fathers are forced to live on a tight budget and making child support payments each month is a challenge. Meanwhile, the ex-wife and the kids are living a life of luxury.
It’s common for dads in these scenarios to feel the support isn’t necessary, at least not to the extent that he has been paying.
However, since the children remain the responsibility of the parents, a court will rarely reduce the payment. The court cannot force the stepfather to provide financially for the children, therefore his income is not considered.
There are rare cases when the court will grant a reduction if the financial conditions indicate that would be in the children’s best interest. (For example, if the mother and stepfather live for free on an inherited property.) However, the burden of proof in these scenarios is extremely high.
The situation changes considerably if the stepfather adopts the minor children. At that point, the stepfather becomes a legal father to the kids and now has a legal requirement to provide for them while the natural father no longer has an obligation for ongoing support of the children.
There are two important factors to consider regarding adoption: 1. The adoptive father is responsible for financial support moving forward, but the biological dad still must pay any arrears that accumulated before the adoption. 2. Once the children are adopted, the biological father forfeits his parental rights and is no longer entitled to parenting time with the kids.
If I remarry, does it affect my child support obligation?
The same rules detailed above apply when the father remarries.
Only the income of the parents is counted when determining child support. So the stepmother’s income is insignificant.
Moreover, the father has no legal responsibility to support his stepkids, if there are any. His income will not affect the child support amount in his new wife’s case either.
If the father has another child with his new wife, child support could be affected since his income now has to support his current family as well as the kids from his previous marriage.
However, reductions will not be proportionate to family size. If the father is paying support to a child from a previous marriage and has another child with his second wife, the child support reduction will be much less than 50%. The court will only slightly modify the support figure.
If my ex-spouse remarries, or moves in with someone, do I still have to pay maintenance?
Whether or not you continue paying maintenance after your ex remarries or cohabits will largely be determined by the wording of your divorce order.
In a lot of cases, if the ex-wife remarries, the husband’s obligation to pay maintenance terminates, but this is not always true.
The party paying maintenance can deduct those payments from their taxes if certain requirements are met. One of those requirements is that the payments end upon the occurrence of at least one of a list of conditions. One of those conditions includes the remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient with another adult in a marriage-like relationship.
The tax code requires just one of the conditions to apply. It is also possible to write a maintenance order that does not address remarriage or cohabitation.
If I remarry, do I still continue paying maintenance?
Yes, unless you’re remarrying your ex-spouse. Just because you’re taking on more financial responsibilities with your new marriage does not free you from your maintenance obligation.
If you have further questions about how remarriage will affect your spousal maintenance or child support payments, contact a qualified domestic relations attorney in your area.