In today’s society, it’s not unusual for divorced parents to remarry and have additional children. Parents can have varying responsibilities to children from first or second marriages, stepchildren, and adopted children. Figuring out the appropriate child support for divorced parents who have remarried can be a confusing task.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under District of Columbia law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support in Washington, D.C. after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
D.C. courts follow the D.C. Child Support Guidelines, which lay out the rules for determining child support. Judges determine the “Basic Child Support Obligation” (amount the parents combined should spend on their children) by multiplying the parents’ combined income by a certain percentage depending on the number of children. Parents have to pay a percentage of the Basic Child Support Obligation based on their respective incomes.
For example, if a child’s mother earns $4,000 per month and the father earns $1,000 per month, the mother earns 80% of, combined income ($4,000 out of their $5,000) and is responsible for 80% of the Basic Child Support Obligation; the father would be responsible for 20% of the support. Non-custodial parents (parents with less custody time) pay their percentage to custodial parents.
Courts in the District of Columbia often make adjustments to the child support award based on a variety of factors:
Estimate your child support using D.C. Child Support Guideline Calculator.
To learn more about child support laws in the District of Columbia, see Child Support in DC.
Normally, parents’ remarriages don’t affect child support in D.C. Every child has the right to financially support from his or her biological parents, and the fact that one of them has decided to remarry doesn’t eliminate that right.
The fact that a custodial parent remarried isn’t relevant to the child support determination. For example, if a father is paying child support to a mother, and the mother remarries a rich man, the rich spouse’s income is still irrelevant to the child support calculation. Judges won’t even require the new spouse to reveal his or her income.
Similarly, a non-custodial parent’s remarriage isn’t likely to affect child support. In one case, a father who was paying child support attempted to use the fact that he had to support a new wife and child as a reason to lower his child support payments. The judge stated his decision to remarry was a voluntary choice that didn’t excuse him from his existing child support obligation to his first child.
In rare circumstances, courts can order a stepparent to be financially responsible for a child. When a child would otherwise be required to receive public assistance funds to pay for necessities, and a stepparent lives in the same household as the child, the court may require that the stepparent cover the child’s basic expenses.
When a divorced parent remarries, he or she may have additional children by birth, by gaining stepchildren, or by adoption. Taking on the responsibilities of new children, however, doesn’t change your responsibility to pay existing child support orders. Judges won’t allow parents to lower their child support payments by having additional children.
Sometimes courts must determine child support for a parent who already pays support for another child. In these cases, the judge can deduct the first child support amount from the income the parent has available to support the second child. This way, the court ensures the parent has enough income to pay both support payments, without disadvantaging the first child receiving support.
Courts always have the power to change the child support award if the parents have had a “substantial and ongoing” change in financial circumstances. To be “substantial,” the change in circumstances must be significant enough to change child support by at least 15%. To be “ongoing,” the financial change must be permanent, or at continuing into the foreseeable future, such as a job loss or a change in custody.
D.C. law requires parents to exchange documentation of their income at least once every three years. If you or your child’s other parent has had a substantial, ongoing change in financial circumstances, you can ask the judge to modify child support by filing a motion in your local court clerk’s office. You’ll have to serve a copy of the motion on your child’s other parent. The court will hold a hearing within 45 days where you can explain why you believe a child support modification is warranted. If the judge agrees with your position, 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 D.C. family law attorney for help.