Divorcing a Previous Spouse for the Second Time

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedSep 18, 2023
3 minute read

Yes, it happens. You may even be living proof: People with the loveliest intentions can still make the same mistake twice. It’s … perplexing. You thought the first marriage was a mistake. You got divorced, and then you wondered if perhaps that was the mistake. So you corrected it by marrying the person again. Now you’re quite certain where you went wrong. You just need to sort out the legalities of divorcing a previous spouse for the second time.

We’re here for you.

Divorcing a spouse you’ve already married and divorced before doesn’t have to be complicated.

Re-Divorcing a Previous Spouse 

If it’s any consolation, you’re in exclusive company. Divorcing, remarrying, and divorcing the same person is so rare that there’s actually no legal term for it. However, it’s not quite as uncommon as many assume.

Statistics show that 10 to 15 percent of divorcees who remarry choose a previous spouse. This includes some of the world’s most fascinating people.

  • Billionaire Elon Musk married Actress Talulah Riley twice, then divorced her both times.
  • Actress Elizabeth Taylor married and divorced Actor Richard Burton twice.
  • Actress Melanie Griffith and Actor Don Johnson remarried in Aspen after a 12-year gap, but they eventually divorced again, and
  • Comedian Richard Pryor married and divorced multiple women, including Actresses Flynn Belaine and Jennifer Lee twice each. He also famously set his whole self on fire — fortunately only once.

If you’re in the same predicament, pat yourself on the back. Your shins are probably bruised enough from kicking yourself.

Now, the legalities.

It Does Not Have to Be Complicated 

Any ordinary divorce can be a painful, frustrating ordeal. Dividing property can get tedious and contentious. Allocating spousal maintenance and parental responsibilities of children can be even more vexing, consuming large amounts of time and money.

All of which is why the second divorce from the same person can go more smoothly — if not always amicably. It’s easy to assume the second divorce would invite a full re-litigation of the first. Fortunately, that’s not the case in Colorado:

“As a general rule, when the parties to a divorce remarry each other, the court’s jurisdiction over the parties is terminated and the provisions of the prior decree for matters of child support, custody, and maintenance are nullified.” — In re Marriage of Doria (Colorado App. 1993)

Remarriage Moots Most Post-Decree Matters 

When you get married, that creates a legal document. Your subsequent divorce produces a new document (your decree) saying you’re not married anymore. You are divorced. You are free to (A) marry or (B) not marry again, or even (C) to marry the same person again.

What happens if you pick Option C?

Your new marriage — even to a prior spouse — nullifies post-decree orders concerning spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, and parenting time. The state assumes all parties will be living together again. There’s no need to decide who is parenting or who owes maintenance and/or child support.

The Second Divorce is a Brand New Divorce 

You and your spouse will both remember your previous marriage and divorce. However, the judge or magistrate overseeing your second divorce may not have presided over the first one. That’s not a problem, as the law treats this matter as a wholly separate divorce.

If your first divorce was recent enough, the court’s orders from that one could help expedite certain rulings.

For example, your two children were 4 and 7 years old during the first divorce. Now 6 and 9, the factors determining parental responsibilities might not have changed much.

If both parties can agree on facts that haven’t changed since the first divorce, the second can be less complicated. Unfortunately, “if” is the key word.

Material Change is Possible and Likely 

What if the second marriage ends with two children aged 6 and 9 years and a third one in diapers? Adding a new child to the mix introduces a new family dynamic. It could affect the factors — under Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124 (1.5) — that the court uses to determine custody and parenting time. It will also likely increase the amount of child support.

Property Division After Remarriage and Re-Divorce 

Again — and blessedly — Colorado law does try to keep this simple.

Since the second divorce is treated as a new case, there’s probably less marital property in dispute. Assets shared during the first marriage, divided upon divorce, remained each spouse’s separate property as they remarried.

As the Colorado Court of Appeals determined in 1981:

“‘Marital property’ means all property acquired by either spouse subsequent to the marriage. Therefore, unless the parties have evidenced a contrary intent, any property acquired by the parties prior to the marriage that is being dissolved may not be declared marital property. This is true even as to property acquired by the parties during a prior marriage to one another.” — In re Marriage of Stedman (Colo. App., 1981) 

Sharing Separate Property in a Sequel Marriage

The property you and your former spouse each bring to the second marriage remains separate. However, any value accrued by such assets since remarrying is considered a shared asset.

Here’s an example: After the first divorce, your spouse is awarded the house. The home’s appraisal value is $650,000 on the day you and your former spouse remarry. However, by the time you divorce a second time, the house is valued at $820,000. The value increased by $170,000 — and that amount is considered marital property. Divided, it comes to $85,000 in value for each spouse.

This is assuming neither spouse adds the other to the title of any separate property they brought into the second matrimonial go-round.

How Unique is Your Divorce Matter?

Like I said, divorcing a spouse you’ve already married and divorced before doesn’t have to be complicated. However, it can be. Every family is unique. Every divorce is its own tangled mess. Fortunately, at Robinson & Henry, we have lawyers experienced at untangling the knots and webs of thorny divorces. Don’t toss and turn. Call us at 303-688-0944 for your case assessment.

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