4 Money Issues to Settle Before Getting Remarried

Financial issues can strain even the most solid second marriage—but planning can make sure that your happily-ever-after isn’t ruined by old money problems.

Wilkinson and Finkbeiner, family law attorneys, pulled together more than 115 divorce-related studies in 2020. The report says that the average first marriage that ends in divorce lasts around eight years, and if a person decides to remarry, the average wait time between commitments is three years. During that time, not only do people find themselves again, discover new passions, and adjust family plans; but they also reassess financial commitments, banking choices, and taxes as a party of one.

If and when someone does choose to remarry, not only might there be financial trauma to overcome, but there will also be new discussions about how this go-'round will be different from the last. These financial loose ends need to be tied up early so that your newfound wedded bliss won't be derailed by preventable money stumbles.

Wedding rings and stack of money
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01 of 04

Talk about murky money topics before marriage.

Finances tend to be at the top of the list of issues that cause friction in marriages. And this will likely be an even bigger issue for couples going into their second or third marriages, because older couples typically come into a new union with history from a previous relationship.

Some of that history may entail a drag on finances—alimony owed, assumed debt. Some of it could be emotional attachments, or child support, or liquidated assets.

Overall, older couples do tend to be more financially stable and advanced in their respective careers, but those aren't assumptions anyone should make. When second marriages entail large age differences, children from prior relationships, and/or income gaps, often the couple feels the need to tackle money questions early.

And every couple can benefit from talking about spending style, money stories, and household budgeting priorities. Before remarrying, tackle the murky topics first.

  • Confirm each partner's level of indebtedness and their attitude toward debt
  • Decide if you're sharing finances and bank accounts or if each person is going it alone
  • Determine household spending and whether financial obligations will be split 50/50
  • Compare investing strategies and portfolios
  • Discuss how family businesses will be run, especially deciding if the new spouse will be involved
  • Determine how much savings you will jointly keep
  • Discuss retirement accounts, plans, and how long both of you plan to work
  • Talk about expenditures for children from previous relationships and whether you want more children together
  • Discuss estate plans, inheritances, and beneficiaries for assets accumulated before the wedding
  • Share information about safe deposit boxes, storage units, and other places where prior values and wealth might be stored, especially if exes will maintain access to them
02 of 04

Define non-marital assets.

Non-marital assets are valuables acquired before getting into a marriage. Each betrothed-to-be must have proof that these assets were gained before the new marriage. In most states, these assets are not shared if divorce happens. But if the timelines are unclear or if the purchase was made with a shared bank account established before the marriage date, then things could get trickier to separate.

If you lived together for years before getting married, be sure to talk about who owns what. Keep receipts and proper records to justify non-marital assets. Retain the titles and maintenance accounts in your name and finance them separately, not with joint assets and accounts.

Discuss all of these issues with a lawyer to be sure both parties know all their rights. If these discussions get contentious or lengthy, give yourselves a lot of lead time and grace as you go into step number three.

03 of 04

Get a prenuptial agreement.

In simple terms, a prenuptial agreement is a document, willingly signed by both parties, that defines how a couple will divide their assets and liabilities in an event of a divorce. This may not be necessary in situations where both parties have similar income and liability levels, but having this in place might make loved ones—such as adult children and other dependents—feel more comfortable about a new spouse's intentions.

A prenuptial agreement helps a couple to problem-solve for issues that could arise from unforeseen circumstances. While this doesn't seem romantic now, consider how much worse it could get if both parties are angry or scorned. It is best to have these discussions at the height of compassion and commitment. Having a clear understanding of how a prenuptial agreement works, the ways your partner thinks, and a trusted lawyer on both sides who can ensure that a legally compliant agreement gets inked can set everyone's mind at ease on the wedding day.

04 of 04

Establish or update wills and trusts.

If you hadn't made estate plans before, know that you shouldn't get remarried without them. You don't have to wait until after the wedding day to update beneficiaries on insurance, bank accounts, and retirement plans. Similarly, trusts and wills would be wise to weigh and balance before you've jumped the broom.

Particularly when inheritances have already been promised or when succession laws require that children receive an automatic inheritance (this is true for some European countries), both members of the couple should map out their respective plans. Although a will could end in a dispute, it is better to have that than no plan at all.

Similarly, setting up trusts for minor dependents would be a smart move. If the options are unclear, go to a financial planner and a lawyer together to evaluate your situation and choose the right long-term plan that will spell financial bliss for your blended family.

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  1. American Bar Association, Separating Property. Accessed June 15, 2022.

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