I recently read an article in The Huffington Post outlining the reasons why second marriages are more likely to end in divorce. It’s a troubling thought for those once-divorced individuals who are optimistic about remarriage and hope never to undergo the experience of divorcing again. For those who do fall into this unfortunate situation, there are several ways to protect yourself while entering the second marriage, and several unique characteristics of a second divorce to keep in mind if and when the second marriage ends.
1. Go into the marriage with eyes wide open
Most people do not realize the mistakes they made when getting married until they’re faced with divorce. At the outset of a second marriage, most people are optimistic that they won’t be getting divorced again. However, it’s important to take the lessons you learned in your first divorce and apply them when getting remarried. Most critical is open communication with your partner about your circumstances, expectations and goals.
Many second marriages occur later in life when people are more financially stable and/or have higher earning potential. For some, a prenuptial agreement is a necessary safeguard that serves two ends: (1) it facilitates an honest dialogue about your respective financial positions and expectations of your roles in the marriage; and (2) it outlines your mutual understanding of what will happen if the relationship should fail and reduces the unpredictability of the dissolution process.
Where finances are less complex, some second marriages may not warrant a prenuptial agreement. At a minimum, there should still be full disclosure of all income, assets and liabilities and a meaningful discussion about how marital responsibilities will be allocated. Entering the marriage with a full understanding of the circumstances and expectations of both yourself and your spouse reduces the risk of surprises down the road which could lead to marital discord and, ultimately, divorce.
2. Capitalize on your knowledge of the process
It is no secret that divorce is not pleasant. While some divorcing couples have an easier experience than others, it is rare to find anyone who enjoyed the process. Those unfortunate enough to go through the experience a second time should utilize their understanding of the legal process to their advantage to mitigate the financial and emotional strain that divorce can cause. For example, in the first divorce you may have found that time and money were wasted litigating or fighting about issues that, ultimately, were not that important. You may have felt rushed or delayed by the deadlines and timing of the judicial system and regret not pursuing your divorce through alternative means like mediation. At the outset of a second divorce, think about what you would have done differently in your first divorce and apply those lessons to the circumstances before you. Every divorce is different because it involves different players, but knowledge of the process can be used to your advantage to avoid repeating mistakes.
3. Consider how your first divorce impacts your current divorce
Not everyone is able to sever all ties with his or her first spouse before entering a second marriage. If you are paying alimony to your first spouse, for example, getting remarried does not automatically change that obligation. Where children are involved, you are likely co-parenting and/or sharing financial responsibility for many years after the divorce: again, getting remarried doesn’t change that. For those who find themselves dissolving a second marriage, components of your first divorce may actually impact how the second divorce gets resolved.
Payments of alimony to a former spouse, for example, factor in to reduce your income if and when alimony is determined at the end of your second marriage. Child support payments, whether made to a former spouse or not, also reduce your income for purposes of determining alimony in a second divorce.
Where a person has children from both marriages, custodial obligations related to the children from your first marriage may affect custody of the children from your second marriage. For example, if you have parenting time with children from your first marriage during the week, you may desire scheduling parenting time with your other children at the same time (so they can spend time together as a family) or separately (so each child receives one-on-one time with you). You may need to coordinate holiday and vacation time with two former spouses having very different schedules. You may have preexisting obligations to pay college costs that have to be considered in your second divorce. The interplay between the two divorces is a highly fact-sensitive inquiry, but requires careful consideration so that you are aware of how all the pieces fit together when you are ultimately divorced from your second spouse.
4. Remember your allies and enemies
It is natural to resent or dread the divorce process, knowing from experience what it can be like. However, you can use your prior experience to your advantage to make the divorce looming ahead as painless as possible. If you had a great relationship with your first divorce attorney, utilizing his or her services again can make the process as streamlined as possible, knowing the dynamics of the attorney-client relationship. If you were not satisfied with your representation but feel that your first spouse’s attorney did a fantastic job, ask him or her for a recommendation. The same approach applies to any retained experts used in the first divorce, like child psychologists or forensic accountants. You can arm yourself with a great team and resources by utilizing the lessons learned from your first divorce experience.