Remarriage and Child Support

Many divorced people contemplating remarriage have questions about child support in their new marriages. A divorced person paying or receiving child support who is contemplating remarriage should discuss the impact of the new marriage on family finances with his or her new partner.

Remarriage normally has no impact on the child support a custodial parent receives when he or she remarries because the law holds that child support is the responsibility of the birth parents. Sometimes, the new partner wants to adopt his or her stepchildren, which normally ends support from the noncustodial birth parent. However, “[m]ost states will not approve stepparent adoptions unless the noncustodial parent has relinquished his or her parental rights – which rarely happens in cases where noncustodial parents are actively involved in their kids’ lives and are paying child support.”

On the other side of the coin, noncustodial parents (who are paying support) must continue to pay support even when the former spouse and his or her new partner enjoy a higher standard of living because child support is a “legal obligation.” Generally speaking, courts do not consider stepchildren to be the financial responsibility of the stepparent.

In short, the traditional view of child support is that, in marriage and in divorce, children remain the financial responsibility of their lawful parents. The traditional view, therefore, is that upon remarriage the new partner’s income, which contributes to the support of the household, is not included in support calculation.

However, some states, such as California, consider the new spouse’s income in determining child support in “extraordinary cases,” such as unemployment, underemployment, income reduction, and/or other reliance upon a new spouse’s income. In these cases, the court must see  “that children would suffer extreme hardship without imputing income of the new spouse.”

In some cases, courts consider what is called “modification” of child support when there has been “a significant change” in the financial circumstances of either the supporting or the receiving parent, but these changes normally do not relate directly the fact that one or both parents have remarried.

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