For many people, the goal of a divorce is to permanently end their relationship with their ex. Most divorcing couples want to untangle their lives from each other as much as possible so they can move on.
The problem is that even after a divorce is declared final, your ex’s actions can still legally and financially impact you. Specifically, if they remarry, you might find out that your divorce decree changes significantly. Here’s why your ex’s relationship status could still affect you long after you finalize your divorce and what to expect if it looks like your former partner is about to get remarried.
Why Your Ex-Spouse’s New Marriage May Impact Your Life
You might think that divorce decrees are written with nothing more than your new, single life in mind. After all, there’s no way to tell if either of you will go on to remarry in the future. However, well-written divorce decrees are designed to last a lifetime. That means that they often include clauses that change the restrictions or requirements placed on you and your ex should life circumstances change significantly.
For instance, if a divorce decree includes any kind of long-standing order such as alimony or child custody, it’s common for there to be a clause that explains what happens if either party remarries. These clauses help protect both parties from unfair outcomes. However, they can also cause your former spouse’s marriage to dramatically impact your life, even if you no longer speak to them.
Divorce orders aren’t the only way your ex’s remarriage can affect your financial life. Retirement funds and estate plans often need to be reconfigured if either one of you marries again. Below you’ll learn how your ex’s marriage can impact everything from alimony to retirement and what you can do to prepare for it.
Remarriage and Alimony
The most common reason for your ex’s marriage to impact your life is through alimony. Don’t worry, though: their wedding won’t harm your finances. Your ex’s new marriage either won’t affect you, or it will release you from a significant burden.
If a judge ordered you to pay your former spouse alimony, there are usually only three reasons the order would end early. Either your finances changed dramatically, and you can no longer afford it, one of you died, or your ex remarriage.
Most spousal support orders include a clause that specifically states that you will no longer be obligated to pay alimony once your ex remarries. This clause is inserted on the presumption that your ex will have the support they need from their new spouse and no longer need yours. This means that if your former spouse gets married again, you’ll be freed from your alimony obligations entirely.
However, this clause does not go the other way. If your ex was ordered to pay you alimony and they get remarried, they are not released from their obligation. Despite their marriage, they are still required to pay you the ordered amount on schedule. You don’t have to worry about losing the money you rely on early.
If Your Ex Remarries, Could it Affect Child Custody and Support?
Another common reason for your ex’s new relationship to impact your life is through child custody and child support. If you share children with your former partner, their new marriage could impact any court orders related to your kids.
In California, it’s unlikely that remarriage would directly impact child support. Regardless of the income level of your child’s new step-parent, that person isn’t considered responsible for financially supporting your child. Only your co-parent shares that responsibility with you. Unless your ex voluntarily quits their job, lowers the income, or remains unemployed because of their spouse’s income, their new relationship isn’t grounds for raising or lowering child support payments either way.
However, their marriage could impact your child custody agreement. For instance, a new step-parent could cause changes like:
- Impacting your co-parent’s fitness to raise kids by introducing a dangerous adult to the home.
- Encouraging your co-parent to move away, which would make it harder to share custody.
If either of these changes occurs, you have grounds to request another custody order and parenting plan. That could result in you having primary or even sole custody of your children. As a result, some states’ child support calculations could result in you receiving more child support or paying less to your ex.
It’s also important to note that if your ex has more children with their new spouse, this won’t impact the child support you pay or receive. Voluntarily taking on extra expenses does not impact child support payments in the state.
Remarriage and Retirement
In some cases, your ex’s new marriage could impact your retirement plans. If you or your ex-partner were ever in the military, received a pension plan, or were married for more than a decade, your shared past means that your retirement plans are entangled. In particular, their relationship status may impact your retirement funds if you were expecting to receive part of a pension or Social Security payments.
In general, a pension is considered marital property, so it is not affected by remarriage. If your spouse remarries, they will continue to have rights to your pension. However, your ex’s new marriage will not cut off your rights to their pension. The only time when a marriage may impact your right to their pension is if they quit their job after the wedding and reduce the number of their eventual pension payments.
Similarly, if your ex stops working after their new marriage, it will reduce the amount they pay to Social Security. As a result, if you were planning on drawing on their Social Security benefits for retirement, you would receive lower monthly payments.
Remarriage and Estate Planning
Finally, your ex’s new spouse may impact your estate plans, particularly if you share children. A new marriage can invalidate or alter important legal constructs like wills and trusts. You need to act carefully to ensure that your former spouse’s remarriage doesn’t invalidate the plans you’ve already put in place.
If you two worked together to set up trusts for your kids, their new marriage might make them want to adjust the trusts to include any future children with their new spouse. Depending on the language used in the trust, their children may even be automatically included.
When you find out that your ex is remarrying, it’s important to go over your estate plans on your own. You can revise your individual estate planning documents to ensure that you’ve done everything you can to support your kids going forward despite your ex’s actions.
Prepare for Your Ex’s New Marriage the Right Way
If it looks like your former spouse is about to get remarried, it’s time to prepare for some changes. Their new legal status can be grounds for you to significantly improve your own finances.
With the right legal help, you can work with the courts to ensure that you don’t waste a day paying more than you have to. An experienced attorney will also help you ensure that their actions don’t impact your future retirement or estate plans. You can learn more about preparing for your ex’s remarriage by reaching out to an experienced family lawyer today.