Changes That Come With Remarriage
A divorce does not always mean that the relationship doesn’t continue to impact the lives of the former spouses. If there are children, then issues of custody and support may require continued communication. In some cases, one spouse is awarded spousal support, which may create an additional basis for interaction. When one of the parties moves on to a new romantic partnership, there can be significant changes to the status quo. While this should not be the basis for deciding whether to start a new relationship or consider remarriage, it is essential to understand some of the possible consequences.
Look at the Divorce Decree
Regardless of how the parties get to the divorce, a final order needs to be issued by the Court to make the divorce legal. It may be a simple order in an uncontested divorce, a Court’s findings and decisions following a trial, or a highly negotiated, complex agreement. Still, it is a critical document for understanding the consequences of a new relationship. Conferring with an experienced family law attorney is strongly recommended to understand the statutory defaults that a new relationship might trigger if there are no other terms specifically stating otherwise.
Changes in Child Custody and Support
A remarriage or new relationship does not automatically trigger a child custody or support change. However, it represents a significant change for the children and may be grounds for applying to the court for a change in the custodial arrangement. Some issues, like step-siblings or a change in financial means, do not automatically trigger changes in support, but they can represent a basis to apply to the court for a change in the support order. Parents considering remarriage or are aware that the other parent is doing so should evaluate whether the change warrants an application to the court for a new order regarding custody or support.
When parents have a negotiated child custody and support agreement, there may be provisions regarding new relationships in that agreement. For example, some parents agree to specific terms regarding the timing of introducing a new romantic partner to the children or the cohabitation arrangements with the new partner.
Changes in Spousal Support
Unless the parties agree otherwise in an agreement that is part of the divorce decree, remarriage of the recipient in Virginia is a basis for termination of spousal support. In addition, cohabitation of the recipient under specific circumstances can be a basis for terminating spousal support. The parties can make an enforceable agreement to the contrary, but it is important to understand the various triggers before making a significant life change.
Changes in Property Rights
In addition to spousal support, remarriage can impact the property rights of the party getting remarried. For example, a former spouse might have rights to a pension that will terminate if they remarry before the pension matures or due to other laws. Additional benefits related to military service can also be impacted by remarriage. As with other rights, often the parties may reach an alternate, negotiated agreement to sidestep these concerns. However, working with an experienced family law attorney to clarify whether and how these rights can be modified is critical under these circumstances.
Change happens to all people, and the ability to move on and make a new start with another person can be a sign of healing and closure. If this happens following a divorce, assessing the financial and custodial implications of remarriage or cohabitation is essential. Reese Law, P.C. can provide insight and guidance on steps to protect your interests if you or your former spouse are entering a new relationship. Contact us for a consultation.