Remarriage After Divorce
Many times after a divorce people move on to other relationships. Some of these result in second (or third, or….) marriages. Often people do not realize how a new marriage will affect the settlement achieved in the dissolution of their prior marriage.
Things that need to be considered are alimony or spousal support, location of the new household, and time-sharing arrangements regarding the children. Generally a new marriage by itself will not change the obligation for child support, on either side, as those obligations have little to do with the parents’ romantic situation. However, there are factors in this new situation which could affect the amount of child support paid.
The biggest change will be that if you were paying or receiving alimony, those payments generally stop upon the remarriage of the supported spouse. However, if the supporting spouse remarries, the obligation does NOT terminate. The law has long protected the economic interests of the first spouse, and expects the supporting spouse who remarries to live within their means – with the alimony payment.
Upon a legal marriage, the alimony obligation terminates immediately. There is no need to return to court for an order stating the alimony ends. However, if the former spouse has moved in with someone else, and as a result his or her standard of living has improved, this “supportive relationship” may justify a reduction or termination in alimony. For this to happen, you do have to petition the court and prove the elements set out in the statute exist in your situation.
There are a few instances where the alimony does not terminate upon remarriage, but they are rare. If there is an agreement or a court order that the alimony will not end in the event of remarriage, then the obligation does not terminate. Also, where an “alimony” payment is really payment on the distribution of the marital estate, it may continue until that settlement is achieved. This is not really alimony per se, but a payment plan on distribution of marital assets. Be very careful that any decree of dissolution is clear on what those payments are for, and upon what circumstances they might end.
Generally speaking, Florida law does not consider the effect of remarriage on the issue of child support. This is set out very specifically in the Florida statutes regarding child support. If a paying spouse remarries and the new spouse has children, or if they have more children, the financial impact of that situation is not taken into account. The needs of the new family do not trump the needs of the first family.
Often the question arises whether the new spouse will be responsible for the payment of child support. The income or assets of the new spouse are not taken into account in most cases, unless the paying parent is purposely not employed or otherwise trying to avoid paying child support. It may be a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney about ensuring this, as some co-mingled assets may be subject to capture for arrearages in child support payments. Some new couples keep separate bank accounts, file taxes individually and even title property in the new spouse’s name only.
Florida case law has determined that unless there are “special circumstances” subsequent children will not justify a deviation from the established child support guidelines. Examples of these “special circumstances” are the disability of a subsequent child which requires greater than usual financial support, or in the event the paying parent is the sole support of the child.
It is interesting to note that Florida law does attempt to help out the parent who has subsequent children and takes a second job to help support those children. The income from that second job is not considered when determining child support payments. The rationale is that if the parent is going to work more to support the subsequent children, the law will acknowledge the effort and not use the additional income to increase an existing support award. (Florida Statutes 61.30(12)(a) )
When Child Support Might Change
There are a few circumstances in which a new marriage might create a situation that would warrant a change in the child support obligation. If the time-sharing arrangement changes significantly, that might affect the amount of support. (Remember, one of the criteria for the amount of child support awarded is the timesharing arrangement. If that arrangement has changed, perhaps the support amount should also change.)
For example, if a parent moves away such that now the child/children spend more time with the noncustodial parent, that will decrease the financial expenditures of the custodial parent during those vacations or holidays. There also might be significant travel costs associated with transporting the children, which should be taken into account.
Another example of when child support may change upon someone’s remarriage is when an alimony obligation terminates. This results in an increase in income on one hand, and a decrease in income on the other. When calculating the overall “parental income equation” this might justify a petition for an increase or decrease in child support. Assuming the change meets the “substantial change in circumstances” requirement for modification of child support, it may warrant a change in child support.
Consult an Expert
If you have been divorced and are considering remarriage, you might want to revisit the terms and conditions of your dissolution and child support order, just to make sure you know where you will stand legally and financially.
An experienced, dedicated family law attorney can review your situation, your dissolution paperwork, and make sure you are on the right track. They may make recommendations regarding your situation and help ensure there will be no unpleasant surprises when you embark on your new life.