How Marriage or Remarriage Can Affect Child Support Payments

Bride and groom's hands touching on table

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Divorced parents have every right to remarry, have additional children, foster children, or even adopt. But doing so, does not erase the financial responsibility they have toward their children from a previous relationship.

That said, you may wonder how the new marriage and child support impact one another, especially if you or your ex is planning to remarry soon. Generally speaking, when a parent remarries, the new marriage does not cause an automatic change in existing child support orders.

Typically, child support is only altered when there is a significant change in circumstances. Here are some things to consider that could impact your current child support arrangement.

May Affect Child Support
  • Additional household expenses

  • Increase or decrease in income

  • New spouse can petition for return of half of tax refund government intercepts

Does Not Affect Child Support
  • Additional children with new spouse

  • Fact of remarriage

  • New spouse's income

What if Income Changes?

When it comes to child support, parents often wonder if a change in income as a result of remarriage automatically means child support will be modified. But in most cases, the existing order remains the same unless the parents have a valid reason that it should be changed.

If you are the one paying child support, usually only an involuntary change in your circumstances that lowers your income would be considered grounds for changing the existing child support amount. In other words, you can't voluntarily quit your job or take a lower paying job and expect that the child support amount should be reduced. On the other hand, if you are laid off from a job or get a debilitating illness or injury, a judge may consider those valid reasons for a change in child support.

Conversely, if the other parent remarries and their new spouse makes a decent income, this does not automatically mean that the parent paying child support is relieved of their responsibilities either. When it comes to remarriage, the income of the new spouse typically is not considered when estimating how much child support will be received or paid. Still, it's always a good idea to consult with an attorney for specific guidelines in your state.

What if Household Expenses Increase?

Overall, children from a previous relationship usually have first priority for child support purposes. The court will not consider additional children from a new marriage as grounds for adjusting child support; but they sometimes will consider additional expenses attributed to the new children such as childcare or medical expenses that are paid by the parent.

Usually, courts consider these additional expenses as part of a child support modification request. Sometimes the courts find that a parent paying child support has an increased amount of household expenses as a result of the remarriage and will allow for a reduction in their child support obligation.

Parents hoping for a modification should be prepared to present evidence of these new expenses and the hardship they bring at a child support hearing.

They also should consider how this reduction in support will impact the lives of their children from the previous relationship. A request for a reduction or modification should be made only if the burden to pay support is too much and not because of the remarriage.

Can Child Support Orders Be Modified?

When you get remarried, your former partner cannot request a child support modification based solely on the fact that you've remarried. However, they can request a child support modification, if warranted, based on an increase or decrease in income.

That said, some states restrict the frequency of child support modification reviews and will only revisit an existing child support arrangement every three years. So, it's important to determine the guidelines in your state.

Overall, either parent can request a change in child support, but they must show evidence as to why it should be modified.

Usually, courts will only change child support orders if there have been substantial changes in the circumstances surrounding the child or an involuntary decrease in income.

Some possible reasons parents might petition the court for a change in child support include a significant change in their child's medical or academic needs, a change in one parent's earning capacity due to an injury or illness, an involuntary reduction in income, and so on. Although remarriage by itself is not reason enough to request a child support modification, there may be increased expenses that should be considered by the court.

That said, parents cannot lower their child support responsibilities simply because they get remarried, have additional children, or adopt more children. While the court will consider the new expenses brought on by the change in circumstances, they will not prioritize the needs of the new children over the needs of the children from the previous relationship.

What About Back Child Support?

When a parent who owes child support remarries, the new spouse's income cannot be tapped for the past due child support payments. While the court can garnish the wages of the child support obligor, the court cannot look to a new spouse's income to satisfy a child support judgment.

That said, the new spouse can offer to voluntarily assist with the payments of old or current child support payments if they wish. While this cannot be mandated by the court, it is certainly not prohibited for a new spouse to help out in this way.

What's more, the government can and regularly does confiscate a child support obligor's tax refund to satisfy owed child support payments.

Even if the new couple files a joint return, the court may still confiscate the entire refund. However, the spouse who does not owe child support can petition the IRS for a return of their half of the tax refund.

A Word From Verywell

Although remarriage can sometimes make coparenting and child support a little trickier, it's important for all parents involved to honor their responsibilities to all the children involved. If your remarriage or your ex's remarriage complicates things with regard to child support, you may want to consult an attorney to determine specifically how your state handles these matters. Each state has a different way of addressing these situations and it is best to be as informed as possible.

In the meantime, do what you can to make this new transition as seamless as possible for the children. They should know that even if one or both of their parents are remarrying that they still are loved unconditionally and they will be supported in every way possible—even in the midst of a blended family.

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  1. Office of Child Support Enforcement. State by state—how to change a child support order.

  2. Office of Child Support Enforcement. As the noncustodial parent, what happens if I have remarried and part of the income tax refund belongs to my new spouse?.