Does Remarriage Affect the Terms of a Prior Divorce Settlement?
It is not uncommon for people to get remarried after going through a divorce. What is less common is for two previously divorced partners to remarry each other. But such remarriages raise an interesting legal question: What happens to the settlement agreement from the initial divorce? Is it still enforceable after the remarriage?
In a 1990 decision, Cox v. Cox, the Florida Supreme Court addressed these questions head-on. The justices decided that “reconciliation or remarriage abrogates the executory provisions of a prior marital settlement agreement unless there is an explicit statement in the agreement that the parties intended otherwise.” In other words, if you divorce and later remarry your spouse, any terms of the previous settlement that have not already taken effect are void, unless the two of you expressly agreed to the contrary. But if you have already completed a transfer of property–say, your house–to the other spouse following the divorce, that action is not affected by your subsequent remarriage.
Appeals Court: Former Wife Cannot Use Second Divorce Agreement to “Rewrite” First Divorce Agreement
Here is a more recent practical example of how this works. In this case, Hubbard v. Berth, a husband and wife were married from 1985 to 1989, and again from 1991 to 2004. The first marriage ended with a settlement agreement, in which each spouse waived all rights or interests in any pension or retirement plan of the other spouse. But after the second marriage ended, the parties signed a new settlement agreement that granted the former wife a share of the former husband’s pension.
Many years after the second divorce became final, the former wife sought to enforce this pension clause in a separate court proceeding. The trial court determined the language in the second divorce agreement also covered pension benefits the former husband accrued during the first marriage. The former husband appealed this ruling, arguing the former wife clearly waived any such rights in the first settlement agreement.
The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals agreed with the former husband. The appeals court noted the Supreme Court’s Cox decision applied to a scenario where a former spouse tried to apply an existing settlement agreement after remarriage. Here, in contrast, the parties went through a second divorce and settlement. The second agreement only covered assets “acquired during the second marriage.” More to the point, the former wife waived her rights in her former husband’s pension in the first agreement. So allowing her to now claim such benefits under the second agreement would, in the Fifth District’s words, effectively allow her to “rewrite both of the parties’ settlement agreements.”
Speak with a Boca Raton Divorce & Family Law Attorney Today
Like any legally binding contract, a marital settlement agreement is not something you should enter into without fully considering all of the ramifications. An experienced Boca Raton divorce lawyer can advise you in this process. Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our family law team today.