If you have children, a remarriage may change a lot more than your marital status. Many couples are surprised to discover that remarriage can affect their child support obligations. This article provides an overview of the effects of remarriage on support in Kentucky. If you have questions after reading this article, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Each parent has the responsibility to financially support his or her children. Typically, only one parent is required to pay child support, but the amount the obligor parent pays can certainly change over time.
Kentucky has set guidelines to help parents and judges determine child support obligations. A judge will evaluate the gross monthly income of each parent based on the state’s guidelines to come up with a support amount. Gross monthly income includes a variety of earnings, such as salary, wages, commissions, social security income, stock dividends, tips and royalties.
Judge can deviate from the support guidelines. Some circumstances justifying a deviation include a child with special needs or a parent who has significant medical expenses. In such cases, a judge will balance the financial resources of both parents with the child’s need for financial support.
Child support orders may change over time. If a parent's financial situation takes a signifcant turn, as a result of a new job with additional income or because of a job loss, it may require a child support adjustment. When that happens, either parent can ask a judge to modify the support order.
A parent can file a motion (written request) to modify child support any time after the order has been entered, as long as there has been a material change in circumstances. Kentucky generally recognizes a 15% increase or decrease in either parent’s income as a material change. However, the birth of a new baby, a job loss, or a parent’s remarriage may also be enough to justify an adjustment to support. It’s worth noting though, if either parent files a modification action within one year of entry of a child support order, he or she must show at least a 25% change to either parent’s income.
If either parent has remarried, his or her new spouse’s income can be considered in a support modification action. Although a new spouse can’t be required to financially support a child that is not his or hers, the spouse’s household contributions may lead to a change in support. For example, in one Kentucky case, a new spouse was required to present his income information to the court as part of a modification action. The court used his income information to assess whether the mother’s financial needs had changed as a result of the remarriage.
A court looks at each parent’s income as well as his or her basic expenses when deciding if a change to child support is warranted. If one parent remarries, any financial support from a new spouse will be considered. A parent who is spending less on household expenses because a new spouse is covering those costs, likely has more money available to pay child support.
A deadbeat parent may take a lesser-paying job or quit a job altogether to try and avoid child support. As a parent, you have a legal remedy to prevent your child’s other parent from shirking his or her financial responsibilities - a judge can “impute” or “assign” income to a parent that is earning less than he or she is capable of earning.
Before a Kentucky court will impute income, a judge will assess the following:
There are circumstances where a judge will not impute income to a parent even if he or she earned more money previously. Such situations include a physically or mentally incapacitated parent or a parent who is caring for a child under age three.
Remarriage by itself won’t necessitate a change to child support. Both parents have a continuing duty to support their children. If a parent remarries, he or she is not alleviated of the obligation to provide child support. In one Kentucky case, the court denied a father’s request to reduce support because he’d remarried. The court explained that the father’s additional expenses because of his remarriage didn’t end his duty to support his child from a previous marriage. However, there are some situations where a remarriage may lead to an adjustment in support.
Prior child support orders may be reduced if either parent remarries and has a child as a result of their remarriage. Kentucky law allows a reduction in child support if a parent has additional dependent children.
As mentioned above, either parent can seek to have child support adjusted by motioning the court. But the current child support order will remain in effect during a modification action and up until a judge issues a new support order.
The rules governing the effects of remarriage on child support can be complicated. Nearly every situation is different, so it’s important to seek the advice of a local family law attorney if you have questions.