Family Law

Does Remarriage Affect Custody and Visitation?

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Learn more about how a new relationship may affect your parenting arrangements.

A Custodial Parent’s Remarriage

When a custodial parent remarries, it usually means big changes for any children involved, like moving to a new home. How a remarriage will affect your child depends on your family's unique circumstances. A remarriage may result in a positive change for your kids if it adds a loving stepparent, more financial security, or increased stability. However, if your child’s relationship with a stepparent is strained, be prepared for the noncustodial parent to ask for a custody modification.

Non-Custodial Parent’s Remarriage

A non-custodial parent’s remarriage typically won’t have a major impact on custody. But if the new spouse has a positive influence on your lifestyle and good rapport with your kids, you may benefit from this in a custody hearing. A remarriage can demonstrate that a non-custodial parent is stable and may justify additional visitation or overnight visits if the parent wasn’t previously receiving overnights. However, usually you’ll need to show more than an improved lifestyle to warrant a major change in custody or visitation.

Can I Modify Custody Based on My Ex’s Remarriage?

Typically, a parent can seek a custody modification after a certain amount of time has passed (generally 3 years) or if there’s been a material change in circumstances. A “material change” is a major and permanent change that affects a child’s well-being. Some circumstances that may warrant a change to custody can include a parent’s relocation, a child’s recent medical diagnosis, or even a parent’s remarriage. A court will modify custody following a parent’s remarriage if the proposed change serves a child’s best interests.

A second marriage doesn’t automatically warrant a new custody arrangement. Instead, you’ll have to prove that your child’s other parent is no longer able to provide a suitable environment for the child or that your child’s needs aren’t being met as a result of the remarriage. For example, a custody change may be in order if your ex remarried a man who has six children of his own and your child no longer has a bed to sleep in at your ex’s house. Additionally, if a remarriage caused your child’s other parent to move out of your child’s school district boundaries, you may have a claim to switch custody if your child could avoid having to change schools by living with you instead.

Child custody is complicated enough without one parent’s remarriage being added to the mix. In some situations, a second marriage can actually enrich a child’s life with additional opportunities and the chance to form a bond with a stepparent. However, not all custody situations turn out perfectly after a parent remarries.

What If My Child Refuses Visits?

A parent’s remarriage can negatively affect that parent’s relationship with the child. This is especially true if the child doesn’t like the new spouse. If they aren’t comfortable with the new stepparent, children can put up quite a fuss about visiting. Older children might outright refuse to visit. Courts are not likely to end visitation, since laws favor contact with both parents. But, if the children insist, a judge might order that visitation take place outside the non-custodial parent's home and away from the stepparent.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I’m planning to get married and move out of state with my spouse. How will this affect custody?
  • My ex has sole physical custody, but his new wife is cruel to my child. What can I do?
  • I have full physical custody of my kids and am remarrying someone who has two kids of her own. How will this impact custody in my case?

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