In a typical divorce, one parent gets primary custody of the children, while the other pays child support to the custodial parent. Many things, including raises, lost jobs, and changes in custody are reasons to modify the child support amount. One question many parents have is whether the remarriage of either parent affects the child support order.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Idaho law. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Idaho courts determine child support using the Idaho Child Support Guidelines. When deciding child support, judges consider all of the following factors:
Parents can estimate their child support payment by using the Idaho Child Support Calculator. The calculator may not yield the exact child support amount for every parent, as judges can make adjustments to this child support figure for a number of reasons.
If you would like to know more about child support in Idaho, see Child Support Laws in Idaho.
An Idaho parent’s remarriage won’t directly impact a child support order, but there are a number of factors surrounding remarriage than can affect child support. If a parent remarries, the court can consider the new spouse’s income when deciding whether or not to change the child support amount. Since Idaho is a community property state, a new spouse’s income is included in the funds the parent has available to pay child support or to support children directly. The idea is that if a parent’s new spouse is paying for a portion of the family’s living expenses, the parent has more money available to financially support the child.
In one case, a father asked a court to modify child support when the mother (who earned no income at the time of the divorce) started earning $25,000 per year and married a man who earned $47,000. The Idaho Supreme Court agreed that it was appropriate to lower the father’s child support payment based on mom's increased income.
If a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed (without a good reason, like taking care of young children), the court can assign an income, or “impute” income, to that parent for child support calculation purposes based on that parent’s earning potential. When calculating imputed income, the judge will look at the parent’s work history and job qualifications, as well as job opportunities and earning levels in the community.
Parents that remarry have the right to start new families, or take responsibility for children of a new spouse. Therefore, when a court is deciding a child support case, the judge can consider previous child support or alimony awards. Courts won’t, however, modify an existing child support award for parents who have additional children or adopt children after the entry of the existing support order. For example, if a husband and wife divorce, and the wife is paying child support to the husband, she can’t later ask the court to lower her child support amount because she’s had more children or married another man with children.
When setting an initial child support amount, the court can consider a parent’s child support and alimony obligations from previous relationships. Courts can also consider a parent’s child support payments even if they’re not court-ordered, if the parent has established a regular pattern of paying.
The financial needs of a first family take precedence over those of a second family. In one Idaho case, both a father and a mother had remarried. The mother and her new husband were taking care of the mother’s two children as well as three other children, and the father and his new wife were supporting the new wife’s three children and the father’s father. The judge in this case found that the father couldn’t reduce his child support payment to the mother because he voluntarily took on the responsibility of supporting his new family and his father. Idaho legislature believes that the financial needs of a child should come before parents’ needs, or giving resources to other family members.
Courts can modify child support if a parent can show that there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances. A substantial change in circumstances can be any of the following:
If you believe there’s been a substantial and material change in financial circumstances, you should file a motion to modify child support in your county court clerk’s office. You and your child’s other parent will have to appear before a judge to argue whether or not child support should change. Alternatively, if you and the other parent can agree that child support should change, you can submit a written agreement to the court for approval.
The judge can only modify payments that accrue after the motion for modification has been filed. If the court believes you have proven that a child support modification is warranted, the judge can make the new child support amount effective as of the date you filed the motion.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Idaho family law attorney for help.