The terms of a divorce often require one party to pay alimony and/or child support to the other party. If you are the party paying support, you may be looking at making those payments for years to come. What happens though if your former spouse remarries? Does that remarriage affect your alimony and/or child support obligation? The answer depends on several factors.
When the parents of a minor child decide to end their marriage, the law requires both parents to financially contribute to the child’s care and maintenance post-divorce. Typically, that means that one parent will be ordered to pay child support to the other parent until the child reaches adulthood (or longer under certain conditions). The amount of child support ordered will depend on factors including the income of both parents, the number of children, and the cost of things such as childcare and health insurance. Once a child support order is entered by the court, it remains an enforceable court order unless officially modified by the court.
If your former spouse remarries you may feel entitled to pay less in child support because your child now has the benefit of a two-income household. The law, however, does not look at it quite that way. Legally, a stepparent is not obligated to support a stepchild. The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, which are used to determine how much child support a parent is ordered to pay, specifically exclude a non-parent guardian’s income when calculating a parent’s income. Remarriage could, however, impact your former spouse’s overall financial obligations. Child support can potentially be modified if there has been a “change in material circumstances.” Your former spouse’s remarriage might cause such a change. For example, if your former spouse was paying for childcare or health insurance for your child but no longer has those expenses because of the remarriage, it could result in a reduction in your child support obligation.
Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is also court-ordered support; however, it is intended to provide support for a former spouse, not a child. Where every parent is required to financially support a minor child post-divorce, alimony is not always ordered in a divorce. Moreover, there are different types of alimony that might be awarded to a party in a divorce. Massachusetts recognizes the following four types of alimony:
If your former spouse recently remarried, you may not be happy about continuing to provide financial support in the form of alimony payments. Whether that remarriage entitles you to modify or terminate your alimony payments depends on several factors, including the type of alimony that was originally ordered.
States that “general term alimony shall be suspended, reduced or terminated upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor shows that the recipient spouse has maintained a common household…with another person for a continuous period of at least 3 months.” MARA also specifically allows for rehabilitative alimony to be terminated upon the remarriage of the recipient.
Unfortunately, for the party paying alimony, MARA prohibits transitional alimony from being modified under any circumstances and only allows reimbursement alimony to be terminated upon the death of the recipient. Moreover, you may still need to return to court to officially modify or terminate general or rehabilitative alimony after the remarriage of your spouse.