The Financial Impact of Remarriage

A divorce case does not necessarily end when the judge signs the divorce decree. Often one party is ordered to pay maintenance, also known as alimony, to the other party. If there are minor children then child support will usually be ordered. As circumstances change it is often necessary for one of the parties to ask the court to modify its previous orders regarding the amount or duration of payments.

A common situation has the former husband paying maintenance, child support or both. Questions arise when one of the parties later marries or begins living with a new partner. This article will address common concerns regarding how this change of circumstances affects the payment of child support and/or maintenance.

1. If my ex-wife gets remarried does it impact my child support?

In most cases remarriage will not have any impact on child support. The new husband is not legally responsible for the children. The children are the responsibility of their parents. The court will base child support on the incomes of the parents. This often raises problems when the children’s mother marries a new husband who is wealthy. The father may have a tight budget and paying child support is a financial hardship. Meanwhile, the ex-wife and children are living an affluent life. Because the children are well taken care of by the mother and step-father the father feels his support is not necessary, at least not at the level he has been paying. The court will not usually be persuaded to reduce child support. The children remain the responsibility of their parents. The court cannot force the step-father to provide for the children and will not take his income into account. In extremely rare cases a court might grant the father a reduction from his child support if the parties’ financial conditions suggest it is in the best interest of the child or children. (For example, if the mother and step-father live rent and mortgage free in an inherited property). The burden for this type of adjustment is very high and the reduction will not usually be granted. The situation changes dramatically if the mother’s new husband adopts the minor children. In this scenario the step-father becomes a legal father to the children and is now required to provide for them. The natural father is no longer responsible for ongoing support of the children. There are two things to keep in mind about adoption. First, the adoptive father will be responsible for future support but the biological father will be responsible for any arrears which accumulated prior to the adoption. Second, and more importantly, if the children are adopted the biological father loses his legal standing and is no longer entitled to parenting time with the children.

2. If I get remarried will it impact my child support obligation?

The same rules discussed above apply when the father gets remarried. The step-mother’s income is not counted when determining child support, only the income of the parents. Furthermore, the father is not legally obligated to support his step-children, if there are any. His income will not impact the child support calculations in his new wife’s case either. Child support may be impacted if the father has another child with his new wife. This is a factor which the court should take into account when reviewing the father’s child support obligation. Now his income has to support hi current family as well as his children from the prior marriage. However, the reduction available will not be proportionate to the increase in family size. For example, if the father is paying child support for one child from a prior marriage then has a second child with his new wife, the reduction in his child support will be far less than fifty percent. Even though his older child is now only one-half of the total number of children, the support figure will be modify only slightly.

3. If my ex-wife gets remarried, or moves in with a new partner, do I still have to pay maintenance?

The answer to this question depends to a great degree upon the wording of your divorce orders. In many cases the ex-wife’s remarriage will terminate her prior husband’s obligation to pay maintenance. However, this is not always true. Maintenance is tax deductible to the paying party if certain requirements are met. One of the requirements is the maintenance must end upon the occurrence of at least one of a list of conditions. The listed conditions include death of either party, remarriage of the recipient or cohabitation by the recipient with another adult in a marriage-like relationship. The important fact to remember is the tax code requires at least one of the conditions to apply, not all of them. It is possible to draft a maintenance order which terminates only upon the death of either party and does not address re-marriage or cohabitation. T

his is why it is so important to look at the specific language in your divorce orders. Usually remarriage is listed as a terminating condition, but it does not have to be included. Co-habitation is often a trickier issue. It is relatively easy to prove a party has remarried. A search of public records or wedding announcements in the local paper may be enough to prove the point. There are not generally any public records of parties living together, however. It can be very difficult to prove cohabitation. If the two partners each maintain a separate address, even if one address sits unused, it may be evidence they are not cohabitating. At least one court has found the payment of rent by one of the involved parties to the other is evidence they are not cohabitating. The result is cohabitation theoretically will terminate maintenance in most cases, but the practical application is much harder.

4. If I get remarried do I still have to pay maintenance?

Unless you are marrying the woman to whom you owe the maintenance, the answer is yes. Even though you may be incurring more financial responsibilities by starting a new household you do not receive a break from your maintenance obligation for getting remarried. Each of the scenarios discussed above is meant to be illustrative. The facts of each case, and the law of the jurisdiction, are paramount considerations in modification cases. If you have questions about how the changes in your life will impact your maintenance or child support payments you should speak with a qualified domestic relations attorney in your area.

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54 Comments on "The Financial Impact of Remarriage"

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Derek Phelps
1 month 21 days ago
I”m a single dad, divorced now for nearly 2 years (June 2014), but separated for 4.5 (Apr 2010, she walks out) years before that. I was fortunate, cause my ex-wife made all the mistakes splitting the relationship as she Left me when I had all three (of our) kids, and no attempt to contact me or kids for 4 months. I was told many times I should have filed the divorce than, but I was naive that somehow she was the prodigal child, and want to eventually see things fixed. It was repetitive for many years, she’d left for a… Read more »
SF
3 months 2 days ago

What do I do in case where the dad got married again, mom is single and not interested in a relationship, dads new wife won’t even allow him to pay maintenance or even use the medical aid. He has his own company and living a good life. The other problem, she has to be nice to him before he gives money to the child and she can’t because his married. She lost her job due to her daughters illness. What can she do and she don’t want that money for herself it’s for his child.

Bekki
3 months 14 days ago
I give props to the men that choose to step up and take care of their children. Also on the other hand.. U must take into consideration that there are useless “sperm donors” out there that choose to make 10 babies and not take care of them. I have a soon to be 12 year old daughter who has never met her father. I gave him so many opportunities to do so. He had 3 kids before her and two of which he gave up for adoption, then my daughter. 4 months after she was born he had two more… Read more »
Princess
4 months 6 days ago
My kids dad and I separated last year in January 2015 and I was pregnant when that happens I move to my own apartment with our 4 years ago daughter before even that he has not been doing anything for the child every time I asked him to do something for our daughter and I also give birth to another baby girl he is not support the two he is doing two jobs the kids are living with me i I’m the one doing everything for the kids when I asked him to buy something for the kids he will… Read more »
Anna
4 months 9 days ago
My husband went through a separation with his first wife about 12 years ago. They had six kids total, together. When they went through a legal separation, he was ordered to appear in court for a judgement of child support on the two younger children that lived with the mother. He was told that he would have to pay $850 for them. The court advocate looked at him like he was a deadbeat dad when he got mad at the amount. When he finally said, what about the other 3 children? The court advocate asked, what other three (one was… Read more »
Hefner
4 months 13 days ago
I speak as a father who pays child support to an ex-wife who has a higher income than myself. I am remarried and have two biological children and one step-child with my current wife. My ex-wife has only one child from our previous relationship of whom I pay support. My child support was entered 5years ago during a time when I was only allowed to see my child for a few hours, 2 days in a week and one overnight. Since then there has been significant changes in our lives that clearly warrant a change in the support order such… Read more »
Shala
4 months 17 days ago

My ex husband and I are divorced and he recently re-married his ex -wife, this is the 3rd time they have married. He has been and still is paying back child support to her. My child suffers because of that. He no longer calls our son nor does he spend much time with him and he never ever comes around or has anything to do with our child without his current wife. How in the world can he be re-married to the same woman he is paying back child support to???????????????

graham
4 months 26 days ago

My husband did not py support for years before I met him. The exwife took him to court and he paid a lawyer 30k. I am divorcing him now and feel this or his child support ate die to his negligence. Am I responsible for the lawyer fees and back support?

Rabbit
5 months 1 day ago

It’s always good to keep in mind that your ex is your child’s MOTHER.

N Justus
3 months 8 days ago

@Rabbit:
Tell my ex that I am her children’s FATHER.

Helena
6 months 20 days ago
My husband of 14 years has an ex wife and a teenage daughter (16). Husband always paid maintenance, medical aid and school fees. Ex-wive has now re- married, decided to become a house wife and had send the expensive slow learning kid that had added to private school and after care expenses teen age girl to me and my husband (we chose not to have children in our marriage due to high demand careers) Exwive has been seeing daughter at our expense for the last four school holidays and our finances has now started to slide. I had asked husband… Read more »
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