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How does remarriage affect alimony?

It is not uncommon for people to remarry after getting divorced. A question that often comes up in this scenario is, “Do I still need to pay my ex alimony if he or she remarried?” In most cases, the answer to this question is no.

Clearly, remarriage constitutes a change in circumstances. Under Massachusetts law, an award of alimony can be modified or terminated if there has been a material change in either your or your ex-spouse’s financial circumstances. As a result, courts generally terminate alimony when the spouse who receives the alimony remarries. In rare cases, however, the court may order that the alimony continue. 

The spouse who receives alimony and has remarried has the burden to prove that his or her ex should keep paying support. Specifically, the recipient spouse must prove that extraordinary circumstances warrant continuation of alimony. This is tough to prove, and it depends on the circumstances.

In determining whether to terminate or continue the alimony award, courts looks at a number of different factors. For example, courts may consider the new spouse’s income and financial resources. Courts will also consider the impact that terminating alimony would have on the recipient spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs.

Either party can request the court to modify or terminate alimony. To do so, one of you would need to file a complaint with the court asking for the change. After the other party is served with the complaint, he or she will have the opportunity to respond. At this point, the court will set a hearing to resolve the issue.

You and your ex-spouse can also agree to change the alimony. In this case, you would need to file a joint petition.

Keep in mind that remarriage can affect more than an alimony award. It can have implications on child support and visitation rights as well. If you or your ex-spouse remarried, you may find it helpful to speak with an experienced family law attorney to learn about next steps.

Source: Mass.gov, “Changing Your Alimony,” Accessed June 11, 2015

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