Did you manage to snag tickets to the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival this summer? In addition to doing Antony & Cleopatra and Henry IV, Part 1, the company also put on Private Lives, a comedy about life after divorce and the rekindling of old flames.
“After a volatile marriage of volcanic proportions, Amanda and Elyot have divorced and are each newly married to new, sensible spouses. Chance has brought the two couples to adjacent honeymoon suites with adjoining balconies where the fires of former fervor prove irresistible. With the comedic weaponry of [Playwright Noël] Coward’s lightning cleverness and razor-sharp wit, sparks fly as the couple renews their tempestuous relationship. They fight to maintain effervescent decorum against the force of fiercer passions, but their self-restraint is no match for the kind of relationship one cannot live with or without.”
The show, which was written in 1930 when divorce was still a taboo topic, got rave reviews for the way its irreverent treatment of marriage resonated with today’s audiences. However, it is not a love story we would encourage our clients to emulate. Hooking up with your ex while you both happen to be on your honeymoon with your new spouse is more likely to cause drama and heartache than make you laugh.
That is not to say that lost love can never be found again. Our firm has helped a handful of couples reconcile years after they split up. In these situations, we always recommend the couple to do two things — modify their divorce settlement and craft a pre or postnuptial agreement.
Modification Is On You
If you reunite with your ex, it doesn’t make sense for one of you to keep paying child support or spousal support, aka alimony, to the other. But that doesn’t mean the payments will no longer be required. Until you go to court and ask for your divorce agreement to be modified, the payments are still due.
This is true in every situation where modifications are possible. The court system isn’t going to monitor your life. If you or your ex make a significant life change, and you think your support payments should change as well, it is up to you to ask the court to approve a modification.
There is a misconception that prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are only for couples who think they might someday get divorced. In reality, every couple should consider drafting one because most of us aren’t wedding our high school sweethearts a couple weeks after graduation, even though the law acts like we all are. Most partners bring baggage — both good and bad — into the relationship, and a marital agreement allows a couple to work through that and decide how they are going to structure their lives going forward.
If either partner has been married before, a marital agreement can discuss child support and spousal support obligations, outline what portion of an existing retirement account goes to the prior spouse, and generally acknowledge the fact that the previously married partner is bringing certain obligations to the marriage.
“Few people are normal, deep down in their private lives.”
The quote above, which is from the play, perfectly encapsulates the work we do for our family law clients. What is normal for one person or one couple is not normal for another, yet the law treats everyone the same. Consulting with an experienced attorney just before or just after your marriage can smooth the transition to married life, and ensure your life is as normal as you want it to be.