Alimony Payments after the Receiving Party Remarries
UPDATED: January 15, 2020
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One question that many divorced individuals often have is whether a court will continue to enforce an agreement to pay alimony for a set number of years even if the ex-spouse who was receiving the payments remarried before the receiving time period ended.
When we talk about an “agreement to pay alimony,” we're almost always talking about a settlement agreement or separation agreement that includes not only an alimony provision, but also topics such as the division of marital property. Marital property is divided according to the system followed by the state in which the divorce is filed, whether it's “community property” under the system that's used in New York, California, Texas, and a number of other states, or the “equitable distribution” system that is gaining considerable acceptance. If there are children, questions of their custody, parenting time, and how future college expenses will be paid are likely to be answered in other provisions of the settlement or separation agreement.
When faced with the question of whether the originally agreed-upon terms of alimony should end, a court will rarely carve the alimony provision out of an agreement while leaving the remaining provisions intact. The continuance of an agreement to pay alimony after the recipient remarries must be considered alongside the provisions on division of property, especially, and sometimes in relation to the child-expense-related provisions as well. This is because it's often the case that an alimony provision is set up a certain way because something in another part of the agreement has been made for some specific reason, and the balance between the parties that was agreed to would be lost if only one side of it has to be kept.
It is not at all unusual for divorcing couples in which one party makes a lot more money than the other to “shift” part of what would ordinarily be considered a buy-out for the property division. One example would be where the party paying the alimony keeps the home, with substantial equity, but instead of paying for part of that equity, the person makes alimony payments over time, they are treated differently for income tax purposes. Thus, both sides can end up with more money in their pockets. In a case such as that, it would be unfair to end the alimony after remarriage.
Alimony payments can be a complicated process, and challenging them after the receiving party remarries often requires an experienced divorce lawyer arguing on your behalf in court. For more information on alimony, see our articles on determining the amount of alimony to be paid and modifying alimony payments.