Judges use many factors to determine child support, primarily the parents' incomes and the children's needs. However, courts often adjust child support, depending on the specific circumstances of each case. In many states, judges may even consider a parent's remarriage when deciding whether to modify child support.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Arkansas law. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Arkansas courts use family support charts to determine the amount of child support that a non-custodial parent (the parent with less visitation time) should pay to a custodial parent. Unlike most other states that consider both parents' incomes, child support charts in Arkansas only consider the net income of the non-custodial parent, along with the number of supported children. Judges determine net income by deducting certain items from a parent's gross income, including taxes, social security withholdings, Medicare, children's medical insurance premiums, and other court-ordered support payments.
The charts can only give you an estimate of your child support payment. Judges have several reasons why they may increase or decrease the child support amount from the amount shown on the family support chart. Courts routinely give a financial credit to the parent who pays for health insurance. If a non-custodial parent exercises a large amount of visitation time, the judge will lower his or her child support payment. Courts also adjust the child support amount if there are any reasons why ordering the chart support amount would be unfair.
To read more about child support generally in Arkansas, see Child Support in Arkansas.
Arkansas judges will consider a parent's remarriage when determining whether to modify child support, but remarriage alone usually won't be the deciding factor. Courts are much more concerned with changes in financial circumstances that make the current child support amount unfair. When judges decide whether to modify child support, they consider each of the following:
The custodial parent's remarriage alone generally won't be enough of a reason to change child support. For example, if a custodial mother receiving child support remarries, the court isn't likely to reduce child support, even if the mother's new spouse earns a large salary. If the father paying support can still afford to make his payments, then the mother's new spouse's income isn't a reason to lower child support.
On the other hand, a parent's remarriage, in combination with other factors above, can be sufficient to warrant a child support modification. In one case, a father was behind on child support because his income fell significantly. The mother remarried a wealthy man and had more resources available to support the children. The judge lowered the father's child support payment, reasoning that the combination of changed circumstances meant that the mother should shoulder more of the child's costs.
Divorced parents have the right to remarry and have more children. However, if you have additional children, you generally won't be able to use that fact to lower your child support obligation. Having more children means you are voluntarily taking on the risk of more financial obligations. A court won't lower your existing children's financial support just because you choose to take on more financial responsibilities.
Judges can always adjust child support if the parents' financial circumstances change. If you believe you've experienced a significant change in financial circumstances, you can ask the court to modify child support, whether the changes are related to remarriage or not. You should gather evidence about your financial circumstances to show the judge; the court can also require your child's other parent to provide you documentation of his or her financial circumstances as well.
You'll have to file a motion (written request) to modify child support in your county court clerk's office and serve a copy of the motion on your child's other parent. You'll both have to appear before a judge at a hearing. If the court agrees to change support, the judge can issue an order that becomes effective immediately.
On the other hand, if you and your child's other parent can agree on a new child support amount, you should put your agreement in writing and submit it to the court for judicial approval.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Arkansas family law attorney for help.