When parents go their separate ways, there are two main issues to resolve: child custody and child support. The most common arrangement is for one parent to have primary custody of the children, while the other parent has visitation with the child and pays the custodial parent monthly child support. Many different things can affect child support, like each parent’s income, the child’s standard of living, or medical needs. You may wonder if either parent’s remarriage affects child support as well.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Alaska law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support in Alaska after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
All Alaska parents must contribute financially to their children’s wellbeing. Courts determine child support using mainly the parents’ incomes and the custody arrangement.
A judge begins the child support calculation by deducting from each parent’s gross income the following:
Once the court has each parent’s adjusted income, the judge uses percentages of that income to determine child support depending on the number of children and the amount of visitation days each parent has per year. The judge may also adjust the child support amount to account for the parent who pays for the children’s health insurance. Courts also adjust child support when there are extremely high or low incomes, very large families, or extraordinary health expenses.
In Alaska, remarriage doesn't directly affect child support. For a court to adjust a child support order, there must be a continuing and material change in circumstances in one or both parent’s households. Typically, a material change in circumstances is anything that would raise or lower the original child support calculation at least 15%.
Alaska courts don’t include a new spouse’s income in the parent's income for child support purposes. For example, if a mother receiving child support marries a man who works, the judge won’t add their incomes together when calculating child support. If the mother is unemployed or underemployed, however, the court can impute income (estimate income based on ability) to the mother based on her earning potential in the local economy. Normally, judges don’t consider spouses’ income when imputing parents’ income, regardless which parent has primary custody of the children.
Still, in “unusual circumstances” a court can look at a new spouse’s income. For example, if a mother is paying just $50 of child support per month because of a history of not working, but lives an extravagant lifestyle because of her husband’s wealth, the court may raise child support. The judge can look at the new spouse’s wealth as an “unusual circumstance” that requires a modification of child support.
Parents who divorce have the right to pursue new relationships, including the right to remarry and have additional children. Courts, however, won’t punish children because their parents choose to grow their families. As such, judges won’t consider additional children as a reason to modify child support. Whether a parent has more children by birth, adoption, or marriage, courts won’t change an existing child support amount due to the parent’s new children. Courts can, however, take into account existing child support awards when calculating child support for new children.
Either parent can ask the court to modify child support. To qualify, you’ll have to show that a new child support calculation yields a change of 15% or more from the current support order. This can happen when your income decreases involuntarily, or when your child’s other parent’s income increases substantially. A sudden increase in the child’s expenses, such as medical bills, could also support a child support adjustment.
If you want to ask the court to modify your child support award, file a motion to modify support in your local court clerk’s office and serve a copy of the motion on your child’s other parent. You’ll both need to appear before a judge. Bring any evidence of your income and expenses to present to the court. If the court agrees to modify child support, the judge can make the change retroactive to the day you served a copy of the motion on the other parent.
If you and your child’s other parent can agree to change child support, put the agreement in writing and submit it to the court for judicial approval.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Alaska family law attorney for help.