Prenuptial agreements are not just about protecting the assets that you have accumulated during your lifetime. They can also help you protect children from a previous marriage.
If you are married more than once in your lifetime, financial matters can become complex. If you have had multiple past spouses and children from several marriages, the financial and legal complications only multiply.
A legally enforceable marital agreement or “prenup” can help you protect what’s most dear to you if you intend to remarry and make a new start.
Let’s look at how certain clauses inserted in your new prenup can help protect the inheritance of children from a previous marriage and dramatically reduce the risk of disputes and conflicts after you have gone. We’ll also briefly consider how child support may be affected by remarriage.
Learn More → Child Visitation and Custody Laws in Maine
How can a prenuptial agreement help?
If you and your partner agree to sign a marital agreement before you get married, it can outline the main financial arrangements of the relationship and what would happen in the event of the marriage ending. This document can also include what happens to certain property if you should pass away.
Legally, in Maine, a prenup can cover:
- The rights and obligations concerning co-owned or sole-owned property
- The rights to buy, sell, use or manage/control property
- What should be considered marital property and separate property
- What happens to property following a divorce
- Whether one spouse will pay spousal support (alimony)
- Any other matter that abides by Maine laws
Certain topics cannot be lawfully included in a prenup in Maine, such as child custody or child support. However, you can specify the inheritances of children from a previous marriage.
Protecting your children’s inheritance rights
A key purpose of a prenup is usually to clearly distinguish between separate and marital property and to prevent certain items of individual property from becoming marital property.
This can include assets that you intend to leave to children from a previous marriage, who might otherwise lose the right to these assets if left to standard divorce law in Maine.
Under Maine’s property separation laws for divorce, an “equitable distribution” of marital property must be sought, which often results in an almost equal distribution of assets (potentially including assets intended for your children).
A legally enforceable prenuptial agreement allows you to provide specifically for these children.
Discussing and setting this out in writing with your spouse and both of you signing it before the marriage commences can save disputes and conflict (and expensive legal representation) later on. Discussing such matters after a relationship breakdown can be difficult as emotions often cloud judgements.
Does your prenup conflict with your estate plan?
A prenup can help you plan for the future but an estate plan is another important way to specify what happens to your assets in later life and after death. It will usually include a will or trust that directs how assets will be distributed to your heirs after you pass away.
The provisions made for your children in a prenup should be seen as a type of supplement to the estate planning documents you have created. It is important to keep your will and other inheritance arrangements up to date after you remarry so that conflicts with your prenup are avoided and disputes prevented.
You may want to include provisions in your will for your new spouse and her/his children, as well as any children you have together, so it is important to revisit your documents and write a new will or amend an old one.
Remarriage is a major step but if everything is discussed and clarified beforehand, with the rights of all parties respected, it lowers the risk of conflicts developing later.
If necessary, speak to your estate planning lawyer and update or redraft the necessary documentation at the same time you draft your prenup with your family lawyer.
Do you need to modify a child support order after remarriage?
Remarriage may affect the inheritance rights of children but it may also affect the amount of support intended for their upbringing.
A parent in Maine has an obligation to support the needs of all children at least until the age of 18, regardless of whether the remarriage results in new offspring.
Child support orders are based on several factors. If there is a “substantial change” to any of these factors for either parent, it could affect the amount of support due.
In this case, either parent can apply to the court for a modification of the support order. Any change applies only to future payments and must be approved by the court before it can be applied.
How might a new spouse’s income affect child support?
Remarriage by itself doesn’t necessarily constitute a substantial enough change in circumstances to warrant a change to a child support order.
But, often, when a parent remarries, additional help is provided by the new spouse to cover household expenses. The Maine courts will often treat the additional income as part of the parent’s overall household income.
If the recipient of child support remarries, it’s common for the payor to request a modification lowering the amount of support that he/she must pay.
Conversely, if the payor remarries, his/her household expenses may be reduced by the arrangement with the new spouse and the recipient may request that the court increases the child support amount.
This can get complicated, especially if “new additions” come along as a result of the new marriage.
Judges in Maine must balance the needs of both families when deciding on child support. It can help to talk your situation through with a child support lawyer if you are in any doubts about your legal rights and obligations due to remarriage.
To protect children from a previous marriage, speak to an experienced attorney at The Maine Divorce Group during an initial consultation, or call us directly at 207-494-2779.