If you're paying or receiving alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance), you may be wondering how a new marriage or romantic relationship will affect those payments. The answer to that question will depend on where you got divorced, the type of spousal support involved, the specifics in your divorce judgment or settlement agreement, and whether the ex-spouse has been paying or receiving alimony.
Wherever you live, alimony may end when the supported spouse gets married again. But state laws vary on the details, such as whether that change applies to all types of divorce and whether it's automatic.
In most states—including California, Georgia, New York, and Texas—the obligation to pay alimony automatically ends when the recipient remarries, unless the couple had an agreement otherwise (more on that below). In these states, the paying spouse doesn't have to go back to court to request a new order. (Cal. Fam. Code § 4337, Ga. Code § 19-6-5, N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 236 (Part B(1)(a)), Tex. Fam. Code § 8.056(a) (2023).)
If you've been receiving spousal support, you typically must inform your ex or the court (or both) before or soon after you get married again. Your divorce judgment or most recent alimony order will probably include information about this requirement.
In Wisconsin, for instance, every maintenance order must require the recipient to notify the court and the paying spouse within 10 days after getting remarried. As soon as the court receives this notice, it will vacate the maintenance order. If the recipient doesn't give notice, the paying spouse may apply to have the maintenance order vacated after learning about the remarriage. The judge must grant that application as long as there's proof that the recipient did, in fact, get married. (Wis. Stat. §§ 767.58, 767.59(3) (2023).)
Some states, like Illinois, specifically give paying spouses the right to reimbursement of any maintenance they paid after their ex remarried. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/510(c) (2023).)
States have different types of alimony (and different names for those types). Generally, most types of post-divorce alimony are intended:
In some states, only certain types of alimony will stop when the supported spouse gets married again.
A few states don't automatically terminate spousal support on the recipient's marriage. Typically, that means that the paying spouse must go back to court to get permission to stop making the payments. In Ohio, for instance, the law says that spousal support ends when either spouse dies, but it doesn't mention remarriage. So unless the divorce decree specifically includes a provision on what happens when the recipient remarries or lives with someone, the paying spouse must file a motion to modify spousal support and prove that there's been a change of circumstances—such as reduced living expenses due to the new marriage—that are substantial enough to make the current order unreasonable or inappropriate. (Ohio Rev. Code § 3105.18 (2023).)
In some states—including Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas—a recipient's cohabitation will also end the obligation to pay spousal support. In this situation, however, the paying spouse will often have to file a motion to vacate the existing alimony order and provide proof that the recipient is living with someone in the type of relationship that qualifies as cohabitation under that state's laws. (750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/510(c), N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50-16.9(b), Tex. Fam. Code § 8.056(b) (2023).)
If your state's laws don't mention cohabitation as a reason to end alimony, you may still file a motion to change or end spousal support. Typically, however, you'll need to prove that your ex's reduced living expenses qualify as a substantial change of circumstances justifying a reduction or termination of the current alimony payments.
If you're paying alimony to an ex under a court order, that obligation doesn't end just because you've remarried. And on the other side of the equation, you can't get more alimony just because your ex has a new spouse or partner.
Still, you could try filing a motion to modify spousal support and arguing that your ex's remarriage qualifies as a significant change of circumstances. But you should know that some state laws specifically prohibit judges from considering the income and assets of a payor's new spouse when they're making decisions about alimony. Also, spousal support is generally based on the recipient's needs as well as the other spouse's ability to pay. So judges will look at both the payor's and recipient's financial situation when they're deciding whether the changed circumstances are significant enough to warrant a modification.
Divorcing couples always have the option of agreeing about spousal support as part of a divorce settlement agreement. When they take this route, they can decide not only how much the alimony will be, but also how long the payments will last, whether they'll end or change when certain things happen—like when the recipient gets married or is living with a partner—and even whether they can be changed at all in the future.
If you're paying spousal support and live in one of the states that automatically ends those payments on the recipient's remarriage, you can simply stop making payments as of the date your ex remarried. You shouldn't need to go to court or hire a lawyer, unless your ex has hid the remarriage from you. Check your divorce judgment for language about remarriage or see our article about the alimony laws in your state.
However, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney in other situations, such as when: