Q Dear Rick:
I have a problem that I hope you can help me with. Five years ago after 25 years of marriage, my husband I divorced. The divorce was pretty amicable and under the terms of the divorce I got our house, free and clear, along with alimony. In addition, I did receive child support. When the Supreme Court voted to allow gay marriage, my lover and I decided to marry. We have been living together for about three years. My ex-husband, who was actually at my marriage ceremony, has stopped paying my alimony. Unfortunately, our divorce agreement allows him to do that. My question to you is, is that legal and is there anything I can do? If I don’t get that money, I will have to sell our house. The problem is, under the divorce, even though I got the house, if I sell it I owe him one-third of the proceeds. Since he stopped my alimony am I required to give him that money?
A Dear B&J:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but unfortunately, your husband is correct. Provisions that end alimony upon remarriage are the norm. Therefore, your ex-husband was well within his rights to stop the alimony.
With regard to the provisions on the house, you are obligated under your divorce agreement to pay him that amount. The fact that he is no longer required to pay you alimony has nothing to do with this provision in the divorce settlement. Therefore, when you do sell the home, you are required to pay him his share. If you decide not to pay him his share, you’re definitely opening yourself up to a lawsuit.
We live in very complex times and it is important for people to understand that. Particularly, when it comes to marriage later in life, the complexities increase dramatically. When someone decides to get married later in life, they must consider a whole host of issues such as how the marriage will affect healthcare, government benefits, and yes, even divorce settlements. Many times throughout my career I’ve had to instruct people on the negative consequences of getting married. I remember one person, as an example, that had a Cadillac healthcare plan that they would lose if they got remarried. I recognize that many of you may say that it is not fair that someone should have to consider these issues before they get married. I may agree with you, but that isn’t the issue. The reality of the situation is that marriages have consequences and it is important, particularly the later in life you decide the get married, that you analyze all the consequences and see how it affects your individual situation.
Also, when someone decides to marry later in life it is important to review all prior beneficiary designations like on IRA’s 401K’s and life insurance policies. Not only should you make sure your primary beneficiary is accurate, but also secondary beneficiaries. Furthermore, don’t forget if you have any outstanding estate planning documents such as a will or medical or durable power of attorney, that those documents are also current and up to date.