What Impact Does Remarriage Have on Child Support?

Guidance for Custodial and Non-Custodial Parents

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It is not an uncommon situation: You divorced several years ago and agreed to monthly child support payments. But now you're remarrying, and things have changed. Not only do you now need to support your new spouse's kids, but you may also be considering adoption. Or, you may simply want to have more children and need a better sense of financial rights and responsibilities.

Whatever the circumstance, it is important to understand your legal obligations and what options may or may not be available to you. While child support laws can vary by state, the underlying legal principles remain more or less similar regardless of where you live.

Be sure to review your state laws or consult a local attorney before discussing your options with your ex or new spouse.

The bottom line is that remarriage alone does not impact child support. That said, there may be things related to remarriage that might.

Could Impact Child Support
  • New household expenses

  • Change in income

  • Change in custody arrangements

  • New spouse adopts the children

Does Not Impact Child Support
  • Having more children with new spouse

  • Remarriage, alone

  • Income of the new spouse

If the Custodial Parent Remarries

The custodial parent is the one who has sole physical custody of the child from a previous marriage or the one with whom the child resides for a majority of the time. This is the person who would receive the monthly support check and who is largely responsible for the child's day-to-day care.

If you are the custodial parent and plan to remarry, you will want to consider what, if any, impact this may have on your child support and what your options may be if your new spouse decides to adopt your kids.

Remarriage and Child Support

Generally speaking, remarriage has no impact on whether you receive child support or not. At its heart, the law directs that only the child's legal parents are responsible for the child's support and no one else. Therefore, in most states, the courts will not reduce a non-custodial parent or obligor’s child support payments due to a new spouse's income.

However, parents have the right to request a modification to child support if certain circumstances have changed. If, for instance, a parent remarries and chooses not to work at all, the court may base the income of the non-working parent on their "potential income" if they were working full-time or in their field. In some cases, the non-custodial parent’s child support obligations could be reduced.

While all states allow requests for a child support modification, each state establishes its own rules for when modification requests are allowed. For instance, some states do not allow a request for modification if you have made a request within the past three years.

Until or unless a new support order is made, the non-custodial parent must continue to pay child support under the existing order. Failure to do so may result in accrued interest on unpaid amounts as well as the possible garnishing of wages, the interception of unemployment compensation or tax refunds, the refusal to issue a passport, and even jail time.

Remarriage and Adoption

If your new spouse wants to legally adopt your children, it can only be done if the non-custodial parent has relinquished their parental rights. This rarely happens in cases where non-custodial parents are actively involved in their kids’ lives and are paying child support.

If for any reason the non-custodial parent does agree to surrender parental rights, they would no longer be obligated to pay child support.

By adopting your kids, your new spouse has accepted the financial responsibility as their legal parent, a situation which will not change even if you later divorce.

Opting Out of Child Support

Let's say that your new marriage has provided you with greater financial stability, and you no longer need the monthly child support check. Should you take steps to entirely opt-out of child support, either as a gesture of goodwill or to distance yourself from your ex?

In most cases, this is not advisable, either for you, your ex, or your child. Severing the connection may send the wrong message, suggesting that your ex has a lesser role in your child's life. This may have an emotional impact that goes well beyond dollars and cents.

A better choice is to continue to abide by the child support plan and save the money in a section 529 plan for your children's education. In this situation, child support is not modified, and nothing changes except for how you choose to allocate the funds.

If the Non-Custodial Parent Remarries

A non-custodial parent who decides to remarry has every right to start a new life and family, but not at the expense of any children they may have had from a previous marriage. That's incontestable. 

As such, any non-custodial parent considering remarriage should consult with an attorney about the legal and financial ramifications of creating a blended family, ideally before getting remarried.

Back Child Support

While courts can garnish the wages of an obligor, they may not tap the income of the obligor's new spouse for back child support. A new spouse may voluntarily choose to assist with payments, but that assistance cannot be mandated by the court.

The court can, however, confiscate an obligor's tax refund to pay back child support, even if the obligor files taxes jointly with their new spouse. In this situation, the new spouse may petition the IRS.

Remarriage and Child Support

If you, as the non-custodial parent, get remarried, your child support responsibility does not change. But let's say your combined income nudges you up an income tax bracket or two. Does that mean you must pay more child support than before?

Generally speaking, no. The courts do not consider the financial support for your children from a previous marriage to be the legal responsibility of your new spouse. That's not to say that your ex can't contest this or doesn't have legal precedence to do so.

Example: You are able to put aside money for investments now that you are living in your new spouse's home. Your ex could reasonably argue that a portion of those funds should be channeled to your child's care. 

Generally, the combined assets of you and your new spouse would not play a part in the court decision. This includes buying a new home together or enjoying a higher standard of living.

Remarriage and New Children

Let's now say that you and your new spouse have decided to start a new family, but it is going to be a financial challenge. While you may feel justified to request a reduction in your child support payments, courts in your state may be reluctant to do so.

Generally speaking, courts consider children from a previous relationship to have first priority when it comes to child support. In some states, the fact that you have another child will not, in and of itself, hold weight with regard to a modification request. However, other states may consider the additional expenses from a new child, such as childcare or health insurance, to be a substantial change in circumstances that would warrant a modification.

If you are planning to file a request for modification, be prepared to provide documentation to support your request. You should be able to show the court evidence of new expenses and the hardship they bring.

Remember that laws regarding child support modification can vary significantly by state. Seek legal advice regarding the rights and limitations in your state (or the state in which your child resides).

Reasons Courts Might Consider a Modification

  • The income of one or both parents has changed
  • A parent has lost their job
  • A parent is in jail
  • A parent had a child from another relationship
  • Custody circumstances have changed
  • Childcare, health insurance, or education costs have changed

In some cases, if you show that your overall household expenses have increased significantly or that your income has decreased significantly, the courts may consider a modification. Before making a modification request, consider how reduced child support payments might impact your children. It is a sticky and potentially contentious issue and one that needs to be considered with the best interest of your child in mind.

A Word From Verywell

Remarriage can sometimes make co-parenting more complicated. If you are getting remarried and are worried it may impact your child support order, you may want to contact an attorney. Child support laws vary by state, but generally, remarriage alone does not constitute what courts consider a substantial change required to modify child support.

Do your best to make the transition as seamless as possible. Reassure your kids that even though you are getting remarried, it does not affect their priority in your life and how much you love them. As you consider child support modification requests, consider how those changes could impact your children.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Conference of State Legislatures. Child support tutorial. Updated April 13, 2021.

  2. Oregon Department of Justice. Child support guidelines FAQs

  3. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Stepparent adoption. Updated May 2013.

  4. 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? Updated February 1, 2018.

  5. California Courts. Changing a child support order