When the parents of young children split, they usually divide custodial responsibilities, and the non-custodial parent pays child support to the custodial parent. Child support is generally based on the children's needs and each parent's financial resources, but in many states that formula can be affected by either parent's remarriage.
This article explains how remarriage affects child support under Iowa law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support in Iowa after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
In Iowa, all parents have a legal responsibility to financially support their children. Courts use the parents' combined income to come up with a "basic child support obligation," which is the amount the parents together should be spending to support the child each month. Each parent's financial circumstances factor into the percentage of the basic child support obligation they must cover.
Iowa judges must consider each of the following factors when deciding on a child support award:
Generally, the non-custodial parent will pay his or her share to the custodial parent. In joint custody arrangements, the higher-earning parent pays child support to the lower-earning parent. Parents looking to estimate their child support amount can do so using Iowa's Child Support Estimator.
While a parent's remarriage doesn't directly impact child support, it can bring other changes in financial circumstances that do affect child support. Iowa courts can modify child support when there's been a substantial change in circumstances. Many things, such as changes in employment, income, or extreme medical expenses obviously change a parent's financial circumstances, but so can things like a parent's remarriage, or a parent being supported by another person.
Iowa judges can consider a new spouse's income when deciding whether or not to modify child support. When a parent remarries, the new spouse has no obligation to support the parent's previous children. Still, courts look at the new spouse's income to get an overall picture of the parent's finances. If the new spouse is paying for the lion's share of household expenses, for example, the parent may have more funds to contribute to child support.
On the other hand, a parent's remarriage alone isn't reason enough to deviate from the calculated child support, and judges won't allow one parent's improvement in financial circumstances to allow the other parent to escape child support obligations. In one case, a father wanted to pay less child support because his ex-wife's new spouse earned a considerable amount of income. The court ruled that the father's child support should stay the same; simply because the mother's new spouse had additional income doesn't excuse the father from his child support obligation.
Judges are more likely to look at new spouse's income to ensure that there is enough total income to support the child; they're less likely to consider new spouse's income when a parent is trying to reduce their child support obligation. Courts won't lower a non-custodial parent's child support payment simply because a step-parent or live-in significant other is contributing to the child's expenses.
A parent having additional children is a substantial change in circumstances for the purpose of child support. When parents remarry and have additional children, or adopt children, or take responsibility for new spouses' children, they may have a change in financial circumstances that affects their ability to pay child support. Still, judges are unlikely to modify an existing child support award due to a parent voluntarily taking on additional financial obligations unless the circumstances are extreme. In other words, courts won't punish existing children because one of their parents decides to have additional children.
Parents in Iowa can ask the court to increase or decrease child support by filing a motion to modify child support in the county court clerk's office. Both parents must appear before a judge to argue whether child support should be modified. Each of the following factors must be present for a court to change child support:
Typically, there's been a substantial change in circumstances when the child support guidelines yields a child support amount differing by 10% or more from the current award. If the judge agrees that you've proven that child support should change, he or she can issue a new child support order. Courts can make the order retroactive to the date three months after one spouse serves a motion for modification on the other spouse.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and child support, contact an Iowa family law attorney for help.