Divorcing parents usually divide custodial duties, with one parent having primary custody (the "custodial parent") and the other parent having visitation or secondary custody (the "non-custodial parent"). In most cases, the non-custodial parent makes monthly child support payments to the custodial parent. When one of the parents remarries however, he or she may wonder how that affects the child support equation.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Alabama law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support in Alabama after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Alabama courts use an "Income Shares Model" to calculate child support. A judge will first combine the parents' income to come up with an amount they should be spending on their children each month, called the "Basic Child Support Obligation," or "BCSO." Then, courts divide the BCSO between the parents based on each parent's individual income.
Judges can adjust the BCSO up or down, depending on each case's circumstances. Courts consider each of the following factors when deciding whether to deviate from the BCSO:
If you want to estimate your child support obligation in Alabama, you can use the Schedule of Basic Child Support Obligations. To learn more about child support in Alabama, read Child Support in Alabama.
In the state of Alabama, a parent's remarriage, by itself, won't affect child support. If a remarriage causes a parent to have a significant change in financial circumstances, however, that change may impact the child support order.
For example, if a mother who is receiving child support from her child's father remarries, there's most likely no basis to modify child support. If the mother's new husband is wealthy and pays for the mother's household expenses, however, courts can consider that when determining how much the mother can contribute towards the child support obligation. The judge won't directly use the new husband's income when calculating child support, but may reduce the father's child support payments.
On the other hand, courts are unlikely to reduce child support payments when the parent who pays child support remarries. For example, if a father is paying child support and his expenses drastically increase due to him marrying a woman who doesn't earn income, he's not eligible for a reduction in child support. The judge won't lower child support for a father who has voluntarily increased his expenses by remarrying.
If a father paying child support remarries, however, and his new wife also earns income, the court can consider that income when deciding whether to raise child support. The court won't directly include the new wife's income with the father's income when calculating child support, but the judge may assume that the wife's income pays for some of the household bills, leaving more of the father's income available to pay child support.
In Alabama, parents can't lower their existing child support obligations by having new children. Whether parents have children with their new spouse, take on responsibility for stepchildren, or adopt children, courts view having additional kids as a voluntary decision that shouldn't impact child support for children from previous relationships. Courts will, however, take into account existing child support awards when determining a parent's available income to pay child support for new children.
If you believe you're eligible for an adjustment in child support, you should file a motion to modify support in your county court clerk's office. You'll need to state whether you're asking for an increase or decrease in child support and the reason you're eligible for a change in the amount. You and your child's other parent will have to appear before a judge and provide evidence of your current income.
You'll need to prove an actual change in circumstances for the court to modify child support; it's not enough to speculate that a parent's income or financial circumstances have changed.
Alternatively, if you and your child's other parent can agree on a new child support amount, you can put the agreement in writing and submit it to the court for the judge's approval.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Alabama family law attorney for help.