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Remarriage and Child Support

Does a Parent's Decision to Remarry Affect Child Support?

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Whether a parent is paying child support or receiving child support, remarriage brings up a lot of unanswered questions. For example:

  • Cheryl is a single mom who has been raising her children on her own for nine years. Her ex-husband pays child support for their three children, as well as some incidental expenses like extra-curricular activities and orthodontics. Cheryl recently became engaged and wants to know how her upcoming nuptials will affect the child support her children receive.

  • Clark is a non-custodial parent who is also remarrying. He’s concerned about how his marriage will impact the amount of child support he owes, and whether he will be able to continue to pay child support in the event that he and his new wife have children of their own.

  • Monica is a non-custodial parent who’s frustrated that she’s forced to pay child support, even though her ex has remarried and now enjoys a much higher standard of living.

All of these parents have legitimate questions about how remarriage affects child support. Any time that two people are considering getting married, they should discuss finances at length - and that is even more true when there are children involved.

The following questions and answers can help you plan ahead as you consider the idea of remarrying and how it might impact your current financial situation:

Custodial Parents’ Questions About Child Support and Remarriage

If I choose to remarry, will my children receive less child support?
Providing child support is the responsibility of a child’s birth parents. Therefore, in most states, the courts will not reduce an obligor’s child support payments due to a custodial parent’s decision to remarry.

My new spouse wants to legally adopt my children. If the adoption goes through, will my children continue to receive child support from my ex?
Most states will not approve step-parent adoptions unless the non-custodial parent has relinquished his or her parental rights - which rarely happens in cases where non-custodial parents are actively involved in their kids’ lives and are paying child support.

After I remarry, can I informally opt not to receive child support on behalf of my children, since our collective incomes will be sufficient?
This is not advisable, for you or for your ex. Instead, you should consider saving the money in a Section 529 Plan for your children's education if you do not need it for day-to-day expenses. In addition, your ex should continue to keep clear, accurate records of each child support payment made in the event that there is ever any question as to whether he or she has remained current on those payments.

Non-Custodial Parents’ Questions About Child Support and Remarriage

My ex recently remarried, and she and her spouse have more than enough money. Why should I continue to pay child support, when they enjoy a much higher standard of living than I do?
You should continue to pay child support on time and in full because doing so is your legal obligation. If you fall behind on child support, the state can charge interest on the unpaid amount and can choose to garnish your pay, refuse to issue you a passport, intercept unemployment compensation and tax refunds, and even enforce jail time.

I currently pay child support. If I choose to remarry, will the courts expect me to pay more child support since our collective incomes will be greater than the income I was making when child support was established?
No. The courts do no consider providing financial support for pre-existing children to be the legal responsibility of a new spouse.

If I remarry and we have children together, can I request a modification of the child support that I currently pay?
Grounds for child support modification, as well as the impact of subsequent children on existing child support payments, varies by state. For more information, refer to your state’s specific Child Support Guidelines.

Generally speaking, though, the courts are reluctant to reduce child support for existing children due to the birth of subsequent children. If a parent can show that overall household expenses have increased significantly, however, or that the obligor’s income has significantly decreased, the courts may consider a modification of child support.

Following a parent’s remarriage, child custody orders do not typically change. Parents who are considering remarriage should consult with a lawyer about the legal and financial ramifications of creating a blended family, especially when there are current child support orders in place.

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