According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70 percent of all Americans over the age of 15 were married as of 2009. Of them, 15 percent had been married multiple times. Remarriage is common enough that there are numerous schools of thought regarding how to handle your boyfriend's financial responsibilities to his ex and their children if you should tie the knot. The challenge shouldn't stop you from getting married and starting your own family.
1. Know What You Can Afford
Presumably you're marrying for love, not money, so your boyfriend's obligations shouldn't affect your relationship. Know going in that your budget will be less than it would be if he hadn't been married before. Whether he's stuck making the mortgage payments on his ex's house or he's paying alimony, you have to deduct these expenditures from his earnings, and the two of you must live on the balance plus your own contributions. Your house may be smaller and your vacations may be fewer and farther between for a while, but you have each other. Take care not to fall prey to a growing feeling of resentment as time goes by.
2. Decide Who Pays for What
You might consider contributing a disproportionate amount to the household budget from your own earnings so you won't have to scale back on your standard of living -- at least not as much. This is where a prenuptial agreement might be useful. Although the idea might seem unpleasant when you're in the bloom of love, a "prenup" can go a long way toward sparing you unnecessary angst down the road. It allows you to address issues before they can become problems that might undermine your relationship. You might agree to pay three-quarters of your living expenses to take some of the financial load off your boyfriend. Or the two of you can pay for things 50-50, but you might hold out some of your own money for the car you prefer to drive or other personal pleasures.
3. Your Future Children
If you're planning to have a family of your own, the good news is that when your kids arrive, they will not be shortchanged just because your husband is paying child support to his ex. Most states will modify your boyfriend's obligation to accommodate your own children because they need his support too. In effect, he'll pay less to his ex and keep more of his income for your own children's needs.
4. Light at the End of the Tunnel
There is a silver lining to the cloud of alimony -- the payments will probably not go on forever. Unless he was married to his ex for a considerable period of time, it's unlikely that his alimony obligation is permanent. Even if it is, the obligation to his ex typically ends if she remarries. Alimony is normally paid for a set period of years after shorter marriages, if at all. For example, California generally caps the duration at half the length of the marriage for a union that lasted 10 years or less. Unfortunately, remarrying and having more children probably won't modify your boyfriend's alimony obligation.
- Ric Edelman: Love, Money…and Second Marriages
- CNN Money: Marrying Finances – For the Second Time
- Chamlin, Rosen, Uliano & Witherington: New Remarriage and Second Families – The Effect on Child Support and Alimony
- United States Census Bureau: Census Bureau Reports 55 Percent Have Married One Time
- Spousal/Partner Support: California Courts