Marrying a women with 3 kids. Do I need to protect myself? If so, how without being 'that guy'.

Asked about 1 year ago - Bellevue, WA

She had 3 kids, 2 dads.
The first 2 are older, 16 and 14. She had them young and dad is long gone, other than a random support checks that come from time to time.
The youngest, 11, had dad in the picture...and other than dad being a bad guy, he supports the child and does his share financially. They have a parenting plan in place,etc.
Being a divorced man myself, and being screwed over some in the divorce, I want to know what I am getting myself into legally by getting remarried.
Obviously I love her and expect things to work out. But I'm also realistic about how relationships can unfortunately change. I just don't want to all of the sudden be responsible financially for kids that aren't mine a few years down the road.
Any advice? Suggestions?

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Kate M Forrest

    Contributor Level 15

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Unless you legally adopt the children, which would require the biological fathers to either agree or be found unfit by the state, and would cut off all future obligations by them, they will continue to be liable for supporting their children, not you...But it's not always as simple as that.

    The primary law that directly addresses stepparent liabilities is RCW 26.16.205 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=26...). The good thing is that your liability ends when the marriage ends, so you shouldn't be ordered to pay child support after a dissolution. But that statute also says that "expenses of the family" are "chargeable upon the property of both spouses...and they may be sued jointly." So while you're married, it's conceivable that you could be responsible for damage caused by one of the children (see http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=4....). Or you could find yourself paying for some element of the child's care after divorce if it was put on a joint credit card, because creditors aren't bound by family court decisions (Visa doesn't care whose kids you paid expenses for, you have a contract with them), or even coming after your income for a debt she incurs for the children because community property laws say that anything earned during the marriage belongs to both spouses.

    It's also possible that the marriage could lower the biological fathers' obligations, in effect making you liable for some support. As a general matter, a new spouse's income is not a reason to change child support, but if there are other grounds for deviation from the standard calculation, it can be one of the factors taken into consideration.

    You could talk with an attorney about any fact-specific concerns you have, and consider whether a prenuptial agreement might help keep things on the right track (typically matters involving children can't be controlled by contract, but you can come to an agreement about keeping finances separate during the marriage which may help assuage some of your fears)...but it's impossible to cover all contingencies. Hope this helps a little!

    Avvo answers are attorney opinions offered for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal... more
  2. Bruce Clement

    Pro

    Contributor Level 19

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . You say "I want to know what I am getting myself into legally by getting remarried." I could write a few books on the subject. In the meantime, see my AVVO Legal Guides on divorce for more information about the legal issues raised by your inquiry. Click on my photo. On my AVVO home page click on "View Contributions" or scroll down further and click on "Legal Guides." Scroll down the list of my 29 Legal Guides and select the topics relevant to your question. If you like my answer and Legal Guides, please make sure you mark them as “helpful.”

    This AVVO Answer is provided for general educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you... more

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