When parents divorce, the most common arrangement is for one parent to have primary custody while the other has secondary custody and pays child support to the first parent. Since many different factors affect child support, some parents may wonder where they stand if one or both parents remarry.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Indiana law. If you have additional questions after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
Indiana parents that want to estimate their child support obligation can do so using Indiana's Child Support Calculator or the Indiana Child Support Worksheet. Judges use the facts of each individual case to determine child support, so the figures you get from the calculator or worksheet are only estimates. When determining child support, courts consider each of the following factors:
If you would like to know more about child support in Indiana, see Child Support in Indiana.
In Indiana, when a parent remarries, the remarriage itself doesn't affect child support. But courts can consider a new spouse's income when calculating that parent's available income, since a new spouse contributes to the household living expenses, which increases the funds available for child support.
In one case, a mother who earned $18,000 per year remarried a business owner who earned considerably more. The court ruled that the mother had to disclose her husband's salary so the judge could determine how much he was contributing to her living expenses. Essentially, the money that the husband contributed to the mother's living expenses could be counted as financial resources she had available for child support.
Indiana courts can also "impute" income to a parent, meaning that the court estimates the earning potential of a parent who is either unemployed, underemployed, or receives money from a spouse that should be treated like income. For example, one Indiana judge found that a mother's new spouse paid half of her expenses, including the mortgage of a home she owned prior to her remarriage. The mother didn't earn a high income from her job, but the court treated the money she received from her new husband as income for child support calculations.
Divorced parents have the right to remarry and have additional children. Still, this right won't outweigh a parent's obligation to financially support his children from a previous relationship. Parents can't lower their child support for existing children simply because they had more, married someone with children, or adopted children. While parents are free to start new families, they can't use that choice to decrease their responsibilities to their existing children.
On the other hand, courts can take into account existing children when setting child support for new children. For example, if a father is paying child support for a child and later has children with another woman, a judge can deduct the previous child support amount from the income the father has available to pay child support for the second child. The court won't, however, punish the first child for the father's decision to have another child.
Either parent can ask a court to change child support. To modify child support in Indiana, a parent must show either that:
A change in circumstances that lowers your income must be involuntary to qualify for a change in child support. For example, you can't voluntarily adopt children and then claim that your existing child support award should be reduced. Similarly, you can't voluntarily quit a job or take a pay cut and use that as justification for a child support modification. On the other hand, if you are laid off from a job or have a debilitating injury, courts may consider that a valid reason for a change in child support.
If you believe you are eligible for a change in child support, you'll need to 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 why child support should or shouldn't change. If the court believes you've proven your case for a child support modification, the judge can issue an order modifying child support immediately.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Indiana family law attorney for help.