When parents divorce, usually one parent takes primary custody of the children, and the other parent pays child support. Courts base child support in part on both parents' incomes and the child's needs. What happens to that equation when one of those parents remarries?
This article explains how remarriage affects child support in Hawaii. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
In Hawaii, the family court system uses a set of Child Support Guidelines to determine child support that takes into account the following factors:
Parents can estimate their child support payment by using the Hawaii Family Court's worksheets, which can be found here.
If you would like to know more about child support in Hawaii, see Understanding and Calculating Child Support in Hawaii.
In Hawaii, remarriage, by itself, won't affect child support. Courts can, however, consider a remarried parent's obligations to his or her new family when deciding whether to modify child support. In other words, remarriage alone doesn't justify changing a child support order, but it's one of the elements a judge can consider when deciding whether a modification is warranted. The court can consider both the obligation to support the new spouse, as well as the obligation to support the new spouse's children, or children born from the new marriage.
In general, parents must show exceptional circumstances to lower their child support from the calculated support amount. Expenses such as high debt, private school tuition for new children, car payments, and anything else beyond the parent's necessary living expenses aren't "exceptional" and won't decrease an existing child support award.
If a parent isn't working or otherwise doesn't have income, the court must determine the reasons behind that. If a judge finds a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed without good reason, the court can impute or assign a reasonable income to that parent based on his or her earning potential.
Judges can require stepparents to pay child support if the child's legal parents desert the child or can't support the child financially. Generally, if the child would be destitute without financial help, a judge may order a stepparent to support the child.
If a parent has a child with a new spouse, or if the new spouse has children from a previous relationship, courts will consider those children's expenses when deciding whether to modify an existing child support order. Parents have the right to start new families after divorce, and judges will consider the new families' needs on par with the previous families' needs.
At the same time, the court will consider the new spouse's income as well, since the new spouse also has an obligation to support his or her children. For example, if a man is paying child support to his ex-wife for children from that relationship, and he marries another woman with an income, courts will look to see if the man and his new wife combined have the ability to support their children, while the husband continues to pay the court-ordered child support to his ex-wife.
Each parent has the right to ask the court to modify child support every three years following the initial child support order. Parents can petition the court for an adjustment more frequently if they have proof of a substantial change in circumstances. There's been a substantial change in circumstances if a parent's financial situation has changed enough that calculated child support would be 10 percent more or less than the current payment. The parent seeking a change in child support has the burden of proving the change in circumstances that warrant a child support modification.
If a parent wants a modification of child support, he or she must file a motion with the local court clerk's office and serve a copy of that motion on the other parent. Both parents must appear before a judge to argue why the child support amount should or shouldn't change. If the court believes there's been a change in circumstances warranting a child support modification, the judge will issue a new child support order that takes effect the day the court files the order.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact a Hawaii family law attorney for help.