Does Remarriage Have an Effect on a Previous Divorce?
Moving on from the significant changes of divorce takes time and effort, but most divorced spouses will eventually enter a new romantic relationship, and some will choose to remarry. The ramifications of divorce last way beyond the final judgment and often include obligations and rights that do not disappear simply because the marriage is over. When one person remarries, though, the question of how this shift in marital status affects the terms of a prior divorce often emerge. There may be both legal and practical issues that arise, and possibly require a return to court to determine if some these obligations are no longer applicable or need to be changed to reflect the new circumstances. While the newlywed may be caught up in the excitement of the marriage, it is important to consult a family law attorney if ongoing financial obligations and custody arrangements are in place, because these responsibilities may need to shift. A discussion of how remarriage can impact, child support, alimony, and child custody will follow below.
Child support is a continuing obligation held by both parents of a child and based upon their respective incomes. Thus, any change in marital status, even if the new spouse is wealthy, will not influence the amount owed, and the duration is set by the law to last until the child turns 18, unless a parent has his/her parental rights terminated. Therefore, remarriage, by itself, will not support a modification. A change in circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in income or the number of overnights with the child, will need to be demonstrated. However, if the new marriage produces new children and a parent is eventually ordered to pay child support for them, the earlier support obligation could be lowered to account for this additional financial responsibility.
Alimony is viewed from a different light, and if the former spouse receiving support remarries, Florida law automatically terminates the alimony award. In fact, just cohabiting in a supportive relationship is enough to justify termination. However, if the remarriage is of the payor, the obligation continues, as the need for support has not ended. Note, though, that this general rule would not apply if the divorce decree stated alimony would continue in spite of alimony, or if the support is part of giving the other spouse his/her share of the marital estate. In other words, the language in the court order or settlement agreement should be consulted before any action is taken.
Finally, child custody may be the issue most affected by a remarriage from a practical point of view. The remarried parent will naturally want the child to spend more time with the new couple to cement the family, but the standing custody order still applies, and the parent is not permitted to unilaterally change the terms because his/her life has a new spouse in it. If change in the custody arrangement is truly desired, a petition to modify it will have to be filed with the family court. Judges will only do this if it is in the best interests of the child, and some reasons a remarried parent could argue justify a modification of custody include:
- A better ability to support the child because of increased income;
- The remarried parent is better able to make decisions for the child because of the additional stability and emotional support of the new spouse; or
- The remarried parent moved to a new area with a better school system.
In contrast, an argument against modification would be because the child is having a hard time adjusting to the new situation, especially if new siblings are around, and more time with the family will only exacerbate these difficulties.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
No one’s life stands still, and new relationships are part of many lives after divorce. However, remarriage can affect post-divorce obligations, and this shift should be discussed with a family law attorney to learn how the law applies to a particular situation. The attorneys at the Donna Hung Law Group represent clients in all areas of family law, including post-divorce issues, and are available to discuss your case. Contact the Orlando family lawyers at (407) 999-0099 for a consultation.