What Happens to Child Support if I Remarry?

Hossein Berenji, Dec 13, 2020

Parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children regardless of custody and visitation rights. When parents remarry, they may wonder how the remarriage will affect an existing child support order. In order to understand the impact, it is important to understand both how child support is calculated and how California law generally views this issue.

California Guidelines For Child Support

California uses a set of guidelines found in the Family Code §§ 4050 to 4076 to determine child support. The guidelines provide a minimum threshold amount of support given for a child living in the state and uniformity is determining that amount.

The guidelines presume that it is the responsibility of both parents to provide support for their child. This is true even if one of the spouses remarries. Remarriage does not alter that obligation to their children.

Factors Used in the Determination

There are a number of factors used in determining child support. These factors include:

  • The parents’ gross income
  • How much time the child spends with each parent
  • Allowable tax deductions, and
  • Allowable expenses.

The formula is complicated. A special online calculator is used to determine child support.

Usually, a New Spouse’s Income is Not Considered

Under California law, for the most part, a new spouse’s income is not used in the calculation for child support. It may only be considered in cases where not to do so would cause extreme and severe hardship to the child involved. It is rare that the court will consider the new spouse’s income. Usually, the calculation is made strictly using the parents’ gross income.

There are other exceptions in which a court may consider a new spouse’s income. For example, if a parent voluntarily or intentionally quits work or reduces their income, a court may consider the new spouse’s income. Likewise, the court may do so if a parent remains either underemployed or unemployed and is reliant on the new spouse’s income.

When a court does look toward the new spouse’s income for inclusion in the calculation, the court must allow a hardship deduction based on the minimum living expenses for any stepchildren of the party who is subject to the child support order.

It is important to know that a new spouse may be required by the court to share their tax returns if the court is considering their income as part of the equation. Any questions that a person may have in this regard should be brought to a family law attorney experienced in child support orders and modifications.

Because California is a community property state, a new spouse’s income may push a parent’s taxable income into a higher bracket and that may have an effect on the parent’s level of child support. This is especially true when the new spouse has a much higher income than does the parent.

In that case, the other parent may want to seek a modification of the existing order. This is often a contentious matter between ex-spouses. Seek the advice of an experienced child support attorney with any questions you may have.

Does Having More Children Alter the Child Support Calculation?

It is true that parents are financially obligated to support their children. When a parent remarries and has children with a new spouse, that is their right. However, the parent may not use the new children as a rationale for reducing their child support for their other children. Court will however consider other already existing alimony or child support obligations.

Child Support Modifications

When a parent’s financial situation changes significantly, a child support modification may be in order. Significant financial changes can include such things as a job loss, or a significant pay raise. It can include medical or mental disability that prevents a parent from working or interferes with work sufficiently to have a substantial impact on income. Each case is different, and you should bring your questions regarding modifications to an experienced family law attorney.

Finally, child support orders remain in place until modified or until the child reaches the age of majority, 18 in California. In cases where a child is a full time high school student and lives with a parent, support terminates when the child graduates or turns 19 – whichever happens first. Child support questions can be complicated. Always reach out to get the help you need.