What Happens When One or Both Parents Remarry?
Even in an era when millennials and younger generations are getting divorced (and married a first time) at far lower rates than their parents, divorce still happens. When it does, as with many major life events, life can and will inevitably move on. For a lot of folks, that means remarriage and a new family.
As blended families have become more common, courts have had to address how remarriage can affect children and any court orders to which they and their parents are subject.
Of course, there are many ways a new marriage after divorce can affect kids, and it can have effects which extend beyond the law. While parents know they might have to address their child’s emotional well-being and prepare accordingly when making such changes, it’s as equally important, they address the legal issues that can arise.
Remarriage After Divorce In Texas
Considering remarriage after divorce is often a happy experience for divorcees, but those looking to tie a new knot need to be careful about what a new marriage can do to any existing court orders from a divorce or family law proceeding – especially if they have children. Below, we address some of the issues parents should consider when it comes to a new marriage, including:
- Alimony / Spousal Support
- Child Support
- Child Custody
In Texas, the law is generally clear about what happens to spousal support after remarriage: a paying party’s alimony obligations end when recipients remarry (and even when they cohabitate with a new partner). Of course, the particular terms of your spousal support agreement will need to be carefully evaluated to determine what, if any, conditions may be present.
As child support is considered an important obligation, a remarriage in and of itself does not necessarily constitute a circumstantial qualifying change which would warrant a child support modification, and generally won’t have an impact on a custodial parent’s ability to continue receiving child support from the other parent.
Texas courts don’t automatically modify child support simply because of a new marriage, but there has been a growing trend in courts considering a new spouse’s income and how it may offset some of the parent’s expenses when determining their ability to pay or their need to receive support payments. A parent having another child with their new spouse may also impact support calculations.
For the most part, support payments will continue until the obligation ceases, such as when a child turns 18 or becomes emancipated, or the other parent’s parental rights are terminated and the child is adopted by a step-parent.
Child custody arrangements vary from case to case but may either provide both parents with joint physical custody and the shared right to make decisions for their child or provide one parent with primary physical custody and the sole decision-making right.
After a divorce and child custody agreement is finalized, a new marriage can certainly impact a custody arrangement or schedule. Should either parent seek a child custody modification, courts will always prioritize the best interests of the child.
A few factors courts may consider in relation to custody and modifications include:
- Whether the new marriage has a negative impact on the child’s relationship with either parent;
- Whether a new marriage endangers the child or is not in their best interest;
- Whether the new marriage means a parent will relocate beyond geographic restrictions;
Modifying child custody agreements, enforcing existing custody orders, or seeking temporary or protective orders can be complex and highly important endeavors, which is why parents should always consult experienced family lawyers to better understand their rights and available options.
A new marriage can impact a child’s relationship with either biological parent. In some situations, this may mean difficulties with visitation (or “possession and access” as it’s known in Texas).
In Texas, courts still expect parents to make reasonable efforts in complying with visitation terms, even if their child refuses to visit. For parents who believe visitation with the other parent and their new spouse is not in the child’s best interests (i.e. endangerment), they may seek modifications and new terms through the court.
A new marriage means a new family. For some who want to solidify that sentiment, gain parental rights, and allow a child to legally inherit, adoption may become an option. However, any new parent who wants to begin the step-parent adoption process must know that Texas requires termination of the child’s other biological parent’s rights.
Though terminating parental rights isn’t likely when a parent is actively involved in a child’s life, there are a few situations when Texas courts will permit a stepparent adoption. These include:
- A child has only one living biological parent;
- The child has only one biological parent present in their life (i.e. abandonment or absent by choice, unknown location, or unknown identity);
- The other biological parent voluntarily terminates their parental rights;
- The child is a legal adult.
Have questions about divorce, child custody, or another family law matter? Hendershot, Cannon & Hisey, P.C. is available to help. Contact us to speak with an attorney. We serve clients throughout Houston and the state of Texas.