Second Marriage Issues

It is not unusual that one or both of the parties planning to marry are approaching marriage for the second time. There are pluses and minuses to this new situation. On the plus side, individuals entering a second marriage tend to be somewhat older and if not necessarily 'wiser' than first-time couples, they have a good idea of their needs, wants, and are often in a more secure financial situation. On the minus side, there can be complications regarding previous spouses and children that require careful consideration when planning the domestic situation (custody, etc.) and estate plans.

Children and Custody

If you or your new spouse have minor children from a previous marriage it is assumed under law that those children will be properly provided for. Child support requirements are generally based on federal/provincial guidelines relating to the relative income of the parents. When becoming remarried, the income of the new spouse is typically not an issue unless the basic support award had been reduced. When minor children are being introduced to a new home life, it is strongly recommended that legal counsel be retained to ensure that the new arrangement is in their best interests, with the agreement of any other parent and compliant with legal guidelines.

Spousal Support

Unlike child support, spousal support is not subject to specific government guidelines and as such each case needs to be judged on the facts. As a general rule, remarriage is not grounds for a person to reduce their spousal payment responsibilities to a former spouse. However, the remarriage of the recipient of the spousal support may result in a reduction, suspension or even elimination in spousal support payments depending on the specific situation.

Insurance

If you previously had a spouse it is often the case that you had life insurance on your life with the former spouse as the beneficiary. This may be the case with both Group Life Insurance through your employer and Individual Life Insurance. If you intend your new spouse to be your insurance beneficiary, you need to review your life insurance policies, both group and individual, to ensure the changes are made. Although there have been some interesting court decisions on this matter, in almost all cases it has been determined that the stated beneficiary will receive the insurance proceeds. That means if no action is taken your former spouse will probably receive your life insurance benefits if he or she is the named beneficiary.

Estate Planning

When becoming remarried, it should be a primary objective to renew your Will. If your former spouse was the beneficiary or part beneficiary of your Will, the granting of a divorce will nullify that. Consequently, you will need to consider how you want your estate to be distributed. Your remarriage may be reason to reconsider how your children will be dealt with in your Will as well. Finally, there may be other assets with your former spouse as the named beneficiary including RRSPs, RRIFs and Pensions and you need to think about new beneficiary designations.