One of the toughest tasks for separating parents is deciding how they will financially support their children. Courts must consider a variety of factors when determining child support, including the parents' income, the child's needs, the custody arrangement, and in some states, whether a parent has remarried.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Florida law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support in Florida after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
The Florida legislature has passed the Florida Child Support Guidelines, which courts use when deciding child support. The guidelines follow the "Income Shares Model," where judges must calculate a "basic child support obligation" based on the number of children and the parents' combined net income (gross income minus certain deductions). The basic child support obligation is the estimated amount of money the parents should be spending on the child each month.
Judges may add to the basic child support obligation any of the following costs:
Each parent is responsible for a share of the basic child support obligation in proportion to his or her income. For example, if the father earns $3,500 in net income per month and the mother earns $1,500, their basic child support obligation would be based on total income of $5,000 per month. The father would be responsible for 70% of the support ($3,500 out of $5,000), while the mother would be responsible for 30% ($1,500 out of $5,000). The non-custodial parent (parent with less visitation time) pays his or her share of the basic child support obligation to the other.
Courts can deviate from the calculated child support amount for any of the following factors:
Learn more about Florida child support laws by reading Child Support in Florida.
A parent's remarriage, by itself, doesn't affect that parent's obligation to financially support a minor child. In some cases, however, a parent's remarriage, along with other factors, can affect child support.
A new spouse's income can factor into the child support determination. For example, if a custodial mother remarries a man who earns a considerable income, the mother has more funds to contribute to her children's expenses. In this case, a judge may lower the father's child support payment. While the court doesn't add the stepfather's income to the mother's for the child support calculation, the judge may decide that the mother can use more of her own funds to support the child, where the stepfather pays at least a portion of household expenses.
Courts sometimes consider a non-custodial parent's remarriage during the child support decision as well. In one case, a non-custodial father had remarried and was supporting his new wife and children. The judge ordered him to pay a lower child support amount to his first wife than the guidelines yielded, to account for his need to support his second family. On the other hand, courts won't increase a non-custodial parent's child support payment regardless of how much that parent's new spouse earns.
Divorced parents have the right to remarry and start new families, but they're still obligated to support their children from their previous marriages. Parents who have additional expenses because of a new marriage don't have a valid argument to lower their child support. Getting remarried is the divorced parent's right, but it's also a voluntary choice; judges won't lower parents' child support obligations simply because they chose to take on additional expenses.
A parent can petition the court for a child support modification whenever there's been a substantial change in financial circumstances for either parent. For example, if a non-custodial father receives a raise at work, the custodial mother could ask the judge to increase child support. Similarly, if a noncustodial father lost his job, he may have a case for a child support reduction. To qualify as a substantial change in circumstances, the child support calculation must vary by at least 15% from the previous award, or at least $50, whichever is greater.
To apply for a child support modification, file a motion to modify child support in your local court clerk's office. After you serve a copy of the motion on your child's other parent, the clerk will schedule a hearing where you both must appear. Bring any evidence of the change in financial circumstances with you to court. The judge will require your child's other parent to provide documentation of his or her income as well. If you prove your case, the new child support order takes effect immediately.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact a Florida family law attorney for help.