Meghan Markle and the UK’s Prince Harry are set to wed this summer. This will be the first trip down the aisle for Prince Harry, but did you know that it’s actually marriage the second time around for Meghan Markle? She divorced her first husband, actor Trevor Engelson, in 2013.
If you are preparing for your own second chance at wedded bliss, then you — just like Ms. Markle — are in the very privileged position of understanding what can sink a marriage and the distress of needing to divorce. So let’s help you put this wisdom to work! Before you say “I do” again, here are three important steps you can take to safeguard your peace of mind in your new marriage.
Get a Prenup: The average age for a woman entering a second marriage is 37 years old. For men, it’s 39. By this time in life, you may have built up retirement assets from your work, or a personal investment portfolio. In the aftermath of your first divorce, you may also have a fair share of assets from that marriage, including possible sole ownership of a home, or a shared agreement with your former spouse to maintain home ownership.
Signing a prenuptial agreement before your second marriage can clarify separate assets that you both agree will not be subject to asset division should you divorce. For example, if your new spouse will move into the home you own, and ends up putting a great deal of sweat equity into the home (or claims they did), did you you know that he or she could claim part ownership of the home in a divorce, regardless of what the deed says? A prenup can spell out ownership, helping you feel more secure about the future. You may also have assets from your divorce or obtained during your solo years that you wish to earmark for your children. Naming these in a prenuptial agreement can help to enforce estate plans (and vice versa). Your prenup can also pre-decide a plan for alimony. [Read more: 7 Ways Prenuptial Agreement Protect Marriage the Second Time Around]
Tip: If you already in a second marriage, investigate putting in a place a post-nuptial agreement which can cover similar issues.
Be aware of alimony and other financial changes: If you have received alimony since your first marriage ended, be aware that this support will terminate upon marrying a new spouse, or even before, if you and your spouse-to-be are cohabiting. (If proven, cohabitation can be grounds for a modification or termination of alimony.) The loss of alimony may represent a significant change in your income, so it’s in your best interests to sit down and start crunching the numbers. What will this mean for your ability to pay your mortgage and other living expenses? How will you and your new spouse divide living expenses? Will you combine income in a joint bank account or maintain at least one separate account (recommended)? What kind of credit card debt and other debts do you each have?
Tip: Financial transparency is probably the best way to avoid financial surprises. You can work with a financial planner or accountant to help you gather documents to share and explore options for future planning.
Review Child Agreements: Will you need to move to be with your new spouse? Will you and your new spouse bring children into the marriage to form a blended family? Is your former spouse and co-parent supportive of your child spending time with their new step-parent? Will your child’s step-parent financially support your child? Would adoption of your child by your new spouse ever be an option?
As you prepare for your wedding and all the changes it will mean for your life, also remember the many changes it will mean for your children’s lives too. If you do plan to move, and are the custodial parent, be aware that you will need to obtain permission from your child’s other parent, or a judge. A move or change in schedule may necessitate a change in your parenting time plan, or custody arrangement.
Likewise, there are many unique emotional pieces to a second marriage when children are involved. A vindictive ex may attempt to stir up drama between you and your child (or between your child and your new partner) or attempt to outright alienate you from your child as a form of punishment. It’s a good idea to start keeping track of your relationship with your child in the firm of a simple parenting log.
Tip: Even if you and your new spouse have been dating and/or living together for some time, marriage represents a big milestone for everyone. Give your child space and time to adjust. For many families, individual or group therapy is beneficial for making this transition a healthy and happy one.
Ready to learn more about how to legally prepare for a successful second marriage? For answers to your questions about prenuptial agreements, alimony, child custody, child support and more, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our skilled family lawyers.
We are sending Meaghan Markle and Prince Harry all best wishes for happiness and joy in their upcoming nuptials — and we wish you the very same, too! May you enjoy this new chapter in life to the fullest.
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