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Impacts of Remarriage on Child and Spousal Support

Considering how complex divorce can be, it is no wonder many people have questions about how remarriage affects things like child support and spousal support. Let's take a look at a few of the top issues.

Child Support

The traditional view of child support is that parents share in support of children. Child support guidelines take into account monthly obligations of custodial parents and payments made by non-custodial parents to custodial parents' households. Upon remarriage, this traditional view maintains that the new spouse's income is not included in child support calculations, though there are some exceptions.

Some states, such as California, take into account a new spouse's income when making child support payment determinations only in extraordinary cases. Extraordinary cases are defined as unemployment, underemployment, income reduction, and/or other reliance upon a new spouse's income. In extraordinary instances, it must be proved that children would suffer extreme hardship without imputing income of the new spouse.

The reason for this exclusion is that the new spouse has no legal obligation for the financial support of stepchildren. It is true that the new spouse's income assists the household and may help meet needs of children on a voluntary basis. But there is no legal duty for this income to be imputed into support calculations.

Some states have evolved from this traditional view. The result is a complication of child support calculations upon remarriage of either parent.

In Illinois, courts may now consider income of a parent's new spouse on an equitable basis when determining child support. In Illinois and similarly-minded states, courts are no longer required to ignore financial resources contributed by a new spouse. Instead, Illinois courts are free to give consideration to whether new children are brought into the household through remarriage, the ability of one to support himself, and contributions for health insurance, health expenses, daycare, and other discretionary factors.

Another factor potentially affecting child support payments as a result of remarriage by the non-custodial parent is the addition of children to the non-custodial parent's household. The requirement to make child support payments does not disappear, but monthly payments may decrease with more children to support.

The addition of more time spent with a remarried non-custodial parent may also potentially decrease the amount of support that non-custodial parent is required to pay. This often happens when the non-custodial parent moves farther away due to remarriage, and children visit for longer periods due to increased travel distances.

It is possible for parties to arrive at an agreement for child support and any modifications upon remarriage. Circumstances can always change and a court may override the agreement, but there is a strong argument to be made for upholding terms parties establish in advance.

Spousal Support

There is little ambiguity around issues of spousal support and remarriage. In cases where spousal support was awarded as part of a divorce, it is usually only given temporarily. That support stops upon remarriage of the recipient spouse or registration in a new domestic partnership.