When parents divorce, they must resolve two major issues: child support and child custody. Typically, one parent takes primary custody of the children, while the other parent has visitation and pays monthly child support. Most parents are aware that many different factors affect child support, but many are unaware whether a parent's remarriage is a valid reason to modify the amount of child support.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Arizona law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support in Arizona after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
All parents in Arizona have a legal duty to financially support their children. Courts determine child support by considering each of the following factors:
Arizona courts use an "Income Shares Model" to calculate child support. Judges use the parents' combined income to come up with a total amount that should be spent on the child each month. The parents are then responsible for a percentage of that monthly amount, in proportion to their respective incomes. The non-custodial parent pays his or her percentage to the custodial parent.
You can use the Arizona Courts' Child Support Calculator to estimate your child support payments. The calculator is only good for estimates, as judges can adjust child support up and down depending on the specifics of your situation.
In Arizona, remarriage by itself isn't grounds for modifying a child support order. Under state law, modifying child support requires a "substantial and continuing change of circumstances." In other words, a temporary financial change, like a year-end bonus, or a one-month furlough from work won't be sufficient to change a child support order. Judges will only modify child support when there's a permanent change that would significantly alter the child support calculations.
If the remarriage of either parent causes a substantial change in his or her financial circumstances, the court will consider that when deciding whether to modify child support. For example, if a mother pays child support to a father, and the father gets married to a woman who earns significant income and pays most of the household bills, a judge may decide to lower the child support payment. Since the new wife contributes to the household expenses, the father can shoulder more of the financial burden for his child.
On the other hand, if a non-custodial parent remarries and takes on additional expenses or children, the court is less likely to reduce child support. In one case, an Arizona judge refused to lower child support for a father who had remarried and voluntarily began supporting a second family.
While divorced parents are free to remarry and have additional children, they can't use the new family as a reason to lower their support to their first children. Courts won't punish children from previous relationships by lowering their child support payment due to later-born children. When judges set child support for later-born children, however, they do consider previous child support awards.
Either parent may ask the court for a reduction or increase in child support. If you can show that circumstances have changed such that a new child support calculation would differ from the current payment by at least 15%, you may have a good case for modifying child support. You should gather any evidence you can about you and your spouse's current financial situations to present to the court. Then file a motion to modify child support in your local court clerk's office.
You and your child's other parent will have to appear before a judge, and turn over evidence of your current income to the other parent. If you can prove your case for a child support modification, the judge can issue a new support order retroactive to the day you filed your motion.
Alternatively, your child's other parent may agree that circumstances have changed and to adjust child support. If you can agree on a new child support amount, you should put it in writing, sign it, and submit it to the court for approval.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Arizona family law attorney for help.