We have in the past blogged on cases which have been decided involving applications for a modification of support obligations based upon economic changes in circumstances. While the vast majority of these have been related to decreases in income due to the current economic times, there are other reasons why a request for a change might be made.

We often hear and read about the effect of second marriages on families, both good and bad. And we know that when a person marries for the second (or third) time, a prenuptial agreement is usually a wise idea. However, what is not as often spoken about is the profound effect that a second marriage or domestic relationship can have on existing financial obligations between former spouses or domestic partners.

A typical situation is one in which a former spouse receiving support, remarries, and the alimony obligation of the paying spouse will be terminated.   However,  the case where a former spouse remarried and is no longer entitled to alimony, may be a change of circumstances which warrants a review of child support obligations.  Child support obligations are calculated, in part, on a paying parent’s available net income after any spousal support obligations are taken into consideration. Thus, in the event of a remarriage and a termination of an alimony obligation, the paying parent will have an increase in income, thereby increasing the child support obligation. 

Another example of the effect of a second marriage is not as common. At the time of divorce, Mary was entitled to or really needed $200.00 per week in spousal support in order to maintain the lifestyle of the marriage. Because Jim, her former husband, was then unable to pay her the $200.00 per week without having to take a significant reduction in his lifestyle, he was only ordered to pay Mary $100.00 per week. Now, Jim has fallen in love again and has married Jane. When Jim remarried, he and Jane moved in to her house, and his expenses were understandably reduced as Jane was also working and contributing to the household. This may be a basis for Mary, the first wife, to make an application to the court for an increase in alimony based upon a change in circumstances- Jim’s ability to pay. A related scenario is if Jim had merely moved in with someone and was sharing expenses.

Finally, another area in which a second marriage can have an impact is that of financial aid for college.  Some institutions review income information from all sources of income in a household, not just that of the parents.  This has had a significant impact on financial aid and parental responsibility for college costs in cases in which we have been involved..

Second families bring all sorts of issues, both financial and emotional, to the table. As the wedding guest list is being compiled, it is often a good idea to squeeze in a consultation with a lawyer so that your financial obligations going forward can be crystallized