Remarriage Law in California

by Cindy Chung
Couples should know the legal effects of remarriage before marrying again.

Couples should know the legal effects of remarriage before marrying again.

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After a marriage ends, former spouses may find love with new partners and decide to remarry. A previously married individual cannot remarry until after a court has issued a judgment of divorce — California law requires at least six months between the date of filing for divorce and the judgment. Remarriage may affect the legal issues from an individual's previous marriage. For example, an ex-spouse's remarriage may affect child custody, child support or alimony terms established during a past divorce.

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License Requirements for Remarriage

When applying for a marriage license to remarry, you must disclose the judgment date on which the previous marriage legally ended and the reason for the marriage's ending. California law does not impose a waiting period for remarriage after a judgment of divorce. Some California counties require a copy of the court order for divorce or annulment before they issue marriage licenses for subsequent marriages. Counties request information regarding the end of your prior marriage because state laws prohibit marriage if you are currently married to someone else. If you remarry while already married, the new marriage is invalid, unless your previous spouse has been absent, missing or thought dead for at least five years. In that case, the marriage is valid but either party in the later marriage may choose to pursue an annulment if the former spouse reappears or turns out to be alive.

Remarriage and Spousal Support

Under California law, spousal support generally ends when the person receiving support remarries or enters a new registered domestic partnership. However, each party should look at the court order for spousal support to see if the order includes specific terms for a termination of the spousal support obligation. Alternatively, if remarriage reflects a change in the financial circumstances of the spouse receiving spousal support or allows the spouse to stop working, remarriage might allow the spouse paying support to obtain a court order ending support. The remarriage of a spouse paying support, however, likely does not end the obligation to pay spousal support from a previous marriage.

Remarriage and Child Custody

Parents may want to know if a remarriage can affect an existing order for child custody. For example, a parent may wish to relocate with the child or change the child's living arrangements to accommodate a new partner. California custody laws determine the criteria for a change in custody, also known as a modification, and set the requirements for a family court to consider. If parents agree to a new arrangement, they may be able to set new custody and visitation terms without court proceedings. In general, a parent cannot obtain a modification without the other parent's consent unless the court finds a significant change in circumstances that would affect the children's best interests. The remarriage of a parent or the presence of a new partner in the child's home may qualify as a change in circumstances.

Child Support Disputes

Remarriage may affect an order for child support. In California, state laws establish guidelines used by the courts when calculating child support. Although the guidelines do not specifically include a parent's remarriage as a factor for changing a child support order, some other factors may change if one of the parents remarries. For example, the child support guidelines consider whether the parent paying child support must also pay support for children from another relationship; in these cases, the court might agree to decrease the amount of child support owed each month. In addition, the child support guidelines consider each parent's tax filing status and income. However, California support laws specifically exclude a new spouse's income from the calculation of child support unless doing so would cause extreme hardship for the children.