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What Happens to Child Support If I Remarry?
Florida legislature enacted the Florida Child Support Guidelines, which courts follow when determining child support. Under the guidelines, each parent is responsible for the child’s financial support based on the Income Shares Model.
According to the model, a child should receive the same portion of each parent’s income that they would have received if the parents had remained in a shared household. The amount is then divided between both parents, based on the income of each.
Other factors, such as the amount paid for health insurance for the child, daycare, and the total number of overnights the child spends with each parent, will factor into calculating the final amount of child support.
How Does Remarriage Affect Child Support?
Remarriage, by itself, does not affect a parent’s obligation to support their child financially. But, a remarriage can bring about other factors that do affect child support. In Florida, a new spouse’s income does not directly factor into a child support determination, but it can still have an impact.
The court does not specifically factor a step-parent’s income into the equation when awarding child support. However, if a step-parent is paying more of the household expenses, the parent then has more funds to devote to the care of the child. Disposable income usually increases for a parent who remarries someone of significant financial means. It is that increase in income that can play a role in changes in child support.
Seeking to reduce child support because a parent remarries rarely works on its own, even if the new spouse has substantially more income than the child’s parents. The courts may consider the new spouse’s income indirectly when determining how the living expenses of the parent.
The remarriage of a non-custodial parent should have no impact on a previous child support award. If the non-custodial parent marries someone of significant financial means, the new spouse’s finances should have nothing to do with the existing child support award. The new spouse’s income is not considered a just cause to file for a modification of child support.
Remarriage can also cause a parent’s employment status to change, and this may qualify as a substantial change in circumstances, which can lead to a modification or termination of child support. For instance, a remarriage may lead to relocation, making it necessary for a parent to leave their job, or increasing the expense of travel involved in spending time with the child.
Because of the new spouse’s income, the parent may find it unnecessary to work. The decision to quit work will not impact the child support obligations of either party.
What About Parents Who Voluntarily Quit Work?
Quitting a job voluntarily to avoid paying child support doesn’t work in Florida. Parents who voluntarily quit their jobs are still required to pay the same support that was ordered when they were employed. The same is true if a parent deliberately decreases their income.
If a parent’s remarriage leads to voluntarily leaving the workforce, it will not decrease their child support obligation. If they are the custodial parent, it will not increase the child support owed by the other parent.
The Impact New Children Have on Child Support
Divorced parents remarry and start new families, but that does not change their obligation to the children subject to a child support order. New expenses based on a new child do not change your obligation to the children you already have.
The paying parent cannot file a petition to decrease child support based on having additional children. However, if the parent who is receiving child support files to increase the amount paid, the paying parent can use subsequent children as a defense against an increase in child support. This is especially true if the paying parent sought a second job or a better paying job to provide for a new child.
Florida law encourages parents to consider existing child support obligations before deciding to have more children. However, there are exceptional circumstances when the birth of a new child may impact an existing child support order. If a parent has a subsequent child with a disability or special needs and they require more resources than the parent could have reasonably anticipated, the parent may be able to decrease the child support award to a previous child.
Modifying Child Support in Florida
A parent can petition the court for a child support modification only when there has been a substantial change in the financial circumstances of either parent.
If the non-custodial parent received a significant raise, the custodial parent could ask for an increase in support. If the non-custodial parent lost their job due to unforeseen circumstances, the non-custodial parent might petition the court for a modification that reduces the amount of child support.
There is a minimum change required before a request for modification in child support will be heard. To reduce the number of inconsequential modifications, the calculation from the previous award must vary by at least 15%, or $50, whichever is greater.
If you are considering seeking a modification for child support, you will need the skill and experience of a family practice attorney in Florida.