What Impact Does Remarriage Have on Child Support?

Bride and flower girl during wedding
Caiaimage/Tom Merton /Getty Images

You divorced several years ago and agreed to child support payments. Now, you're re-marrying. You may decide to have more children with your new spouse -- or you may be taking on financial responsibility for your new spouse's children. You may even be thinking about adopting your new spouse's children from a previous marriage.

Under any of these circumstances, it's important to know about your legal obligations and options.

The following FAQ's, organized by topics, will provide you with a starting place. You'll want to follow up on this article by reviewing your state's laws, and, of course, discussing options and ideas with your ex and your new spouse.

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 not 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, 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.