New Spouse, Old Obligations: How Maintenance and Child Support can be Financially Impacted by Remarriage

Although divorce can be an extremely difficult ordeal, many people are lucky enough to find someone new to share their lives with. Many people today enter new romantic relationships and get remarried. However, as wonderful as a second marriage can be, there are a number of financial issues on which, even years later, divorce can have a substantial impact. Therefore, it is important to be aware of these situations before you say "I Do" again. Two concerns for a couple entering a new marriage together and blending not only families, but finances, are maintenance and child support.

Maintenance

Maintenance in New York is based on the idea that the party receiving the maintenance ought to be able to maintain some semblance of the marital standard of living when there is a large income discrepancy between the parties. In other words, although the person receiving maintenance is no longer with the monied spouse, their contributions with respect to childrearing, homemaking, and other forms of support must be recognized when the parties' assets are being divided under equitable distribution.

How Long Does Maintenance Last?

A dependent spouse should not be forced into a much lower standard of living because the parties are no longer married. Typically, maintenance is provided for a set amount of time so that the party receiving it can rehabilitate themselves professionally or educationally and re-enter the workforce to provide for themselves and help provide for the parties' children, where applicable.

In addition to often having a set maximum duration for how long a party will be receiving spousal maintenance, however, most maintenance determinations also specifically cease upon a party's remarriage. The understandable thought here is that if maintenance is to protect a less monied spouse who no longer has their former partner helping to cover their lifestyle and expenses, that assistance is no longer necessary when a new husband or wife (and their income) enters the picture. Similarly, many settlement agreements provide for maintenance to terminate when the receiving party moves in or cohabitates with a new romantic partner.

Therefore, if you are receiving spousal maintenance, it is important to look at the terms of the order or agreement to see if it terminates upon remarriage or moving in with a significant other. If so, and your new partner has substantially less income or there are many upcoming expenses for your and your ex's children, it may be prudent to wait on marching down the aisle again.

Child Support

When it comes to child support, people often wonder if their new spouse or their ex's new spouse can be held responsible for child support or impact the amount of child support in any way. Under New York law, a stepparent is only responsible for supporting their stepchildren under particular circumstances, typically where they have completely filled the financial role that a birth parent is supposed to fill, to the extent that their stepchild relies on them in the way that they would a biological parent.

Remarriage Will Not End Child Support

Where a custodial parent merely remarries, however, unless the stepparent replaces the biological parent (either through adoption or by cutting off/interfering in or superseding the natural parent/child relationship) the noncustodial biological parent is still responsible for the exact same amount of child support, even if the step parent has substantially more funds and provides financially for the child. A parent's obligation does not disappearsimply because a stepparent is able to cover those needs.

Conversely, where a non-custodial parent remarries and now has a second household income, their child support obligation does not increase, even where they have a substantially more monied spouse who provides a fancier lifestyle than the parent was previously able to maintain. However, if a parent is crying poverty or choosing not to work because their new spouse provides substantially more, they will still be held accountable to what they could be earning based on their work experience and education, especially where it is evident they are trying to dodge their parental support obligation by having their new spouse cover all expenses.

Consider Any Joint Assets Before You Remarry

One final important note is that joint assets and accounts are considered in making child support determinations, so if you are planning on remarrying, make sure to keep certain assets separate so that your new partner is not held accountable for your responsibilities (and vice versa, if they have child support obligations of their own).

Overall, being able to start a new, positive chapter of your life with a new partner is a wonderful thing. Just make sure you take a careful look at the financial impact of your new union on your old New York divorce determinations.

Peter L. Cedeño & Associates, P.C. handles divorce and family law cases throughout New York City. Contact us today to request a consultation with our attorney!

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