In Connecticut, both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children, whether they're married to each other or not. In most situations, the non-custodial parent (the parent with less visitation time) pays child support to the custodial parent. Courts consider many factors when determining child support. In some states, judges may even consider whether either parent has remarried.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Connecticut law. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Under the Connecticut Child Support and Arrearage Guidelines, courts use an "Income Shares Model" to determine child support. The Income Shares Model combines both parents' incomes together, then takes a percentage of that sum to come up with a "Basic Child Support Obligation," or the amount the parents should be spending combined to support their child. The parents are each responsible for a percentage of the Basic Child Support Obligation in proportion to their relative incomes. For example, if the father earns $55,000 per year, and the mother earns $45,000 (for a total income of $100,000), then the father owes 55% of the Basic Child Support Obligation, and the mother owes 45%.
Judges can deviate from this amount based on a variety of factors:
You can use the Connecticut Child Support Worksheets to estimate your child support award.
To learn more about Connecticut child support laws, read Child Support in Connecticut.
A parent's remarriage doesn't directly affect child support. Biological parents have a duty to financially support their children, regardless of what happens in the other parent's life. In one Connecticut case, a mother moved her children to another country and remarried a wealthy man who willingly took care of the children. The children even used their stepfather's last name. Still, since no formal adoption had taken place, the judge ruled that the biological father's obligation to pay child support remained the same.
On the other hand, if a parent receives regular payments from a new spouse, courts can consider that money income that's available to pay child support. For example, if a divorced father remarries a woman that regularly gives him $5,000 per month, the court can consider those funds an increase in income that warrants a child support modification.
In rare circumstances, a parent can use a new spouse as an argument against raising child support. For example, if a father paying child support remarries, and the mother receiving child support asks the court to modify child support upward, the father can use the fact that he must support his new wife to argue against the child support increase. In this scenario, however, the judge can order the father to turn over documents showing his new wife's income and earning capacity. If the new wife has significant income or earning potential, the court could end up increasing the father's child support payment.
Remarriage itself doesn't affect child support, but a change in financial circumstances can be a reason to change the support amount. If a parent's remarriage brings about a significant change in income for that parent, there may be cause to modify child support.
Divorced parents have the right to remarry and have additional children. With those new children come new expenses, but parents can't use the added costs of new children to lower a child support award for existing children.
For example, if a father is paying child support for his 5 year-old son and later has a baby by another woman, he can't use the fact that he had another child to lower his first child's support. A judge deciding child support for the baby, on the other hand, will consider the support paid for the 5 year-old. This way, the parent should have enough resources to pay both child support awards, but doesn't get to decrease the existing child support award by voluntarily having more children.
In Connecticut, either parent can ask the court for a child support modification if there has been a "substantial and continuing" change in financial circumstances. A change is "substantial" if it would change the child support award by at least 15% from the current amount. A change is "continuing" if it is expected to last indefinitely into the future, such as a loss of job or a raise. A change can be in either parent's income, or in the expenses of the child.
If you believe you can prove a substantial, continuing change in financial circumstances, you should file a motion to modify child support in your county court clerk's office. The court will schedule a hearing that both you and your child's other parent must attend. Bring any documentation and witnesses to help you prove the change in financial circumstances that you believe warrants a child support modification. If the judge believes you've proven your case, the court can issue a new child support order that takes effect immediately.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact a Connecticut family law attorney for help.