As a parent, remarriage can change much more than your marital status. In many cases, either parent’s remarriage may impact child support payments. Since every family and circumstance is different, it’s important to understand how a remarriage may affect child support in your case. This article provides an overview of remarriage’s effects on child support in Louisiana. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
A judge will issue a child support order in every divorce or separation case involving minor children. Typically, the order will require one parent to pay support. However, both parents’ incomes are relevant when calculating child support.
Louisiana enacted state guidelines to help parents and judges easily calculate support. The guidelines base support on the parents’ gross monthly incomes, number of children covered by the order, and amount of time the child spends in each parent’s care. However, a judge can consider additional factors and may deviate from the support guidelines to meet a child’s needs. For example, a judge can increase a parent’s child support obligation for a child with special needs or extraordinary medical expenses. For more information on how support is calculated, see Child Support in Louisiana.
Parents’ incomes and financial situations may change over time, whether through a job loss, promotion or remarriage. If the change significantly impacts the parent’s financial needs or obligations, either parent can request to modify child support.
Remarriage in and of itself isn’t enough for a judge to alter child support. Additionally, a new spouse’s income won’t necessarily be considered in a child support action. In Louisiana, stepparents aren't required to financially support their stepchildren.
However, your (or your ex-spouse’s) remarriage may still impact child support payments. A judge will consider any changes to either parent’s household expenses. For example, in one Louisiana case, a child support award was adjusted because a remarried mother’s new husband covered the mortgage, utilities, and insurance on the couple’s new home. Prior to her remarriage, the mother was responsible for all household and mortgage expenses. The court reduced the father’s child support obligation because the mother’s financial obligations were substantially reduced by her remarriage.
A parent won’t escape a child support obligation just because he or she has remarried. Although remarriage can bring additional expenses and family members to support, a parent still has an ongoing duty to financially support his or her child. A parent’s child support obligation will continue until the court modifies the order.
Either parent can file a request to modify child support. A child support award can be adjusted if the award is over three years old or if there’s been a material change in the parents’ circumstances. In Louisiana, a material change exists if the new support order would result in a 25% difference based upon the parents’ new incomes. Moreover, a major increase in a child’s needs or expenses would also constitute a material change in circumstances.
A judge can consider a new spouse’s income when deciding whether to modify support. Louisiana’s child support guidelines base child support on the income of the child’s parents – not their spouses. However, a new spouse’s financial contributions are relevant to child support. Specifically, in one Louisiana support case, the court reduced a father’s child support obligation where the father had lost his job while the mother quit her job and was supported by her new husband. The court found a substantial change in circumstances existed because the father’s income was limited to unemployment checks while a new spouse covered the mother’s expenses.
In another Louisiana case, a court increased a father’s child support obligation after considering his wife’s income. The new spouse’s income was relevant in this case because the father and new spouse had no additional children to support while the child’s mother was saddled with expenses and debts. The father was better able to provide more support and relieve the child’s mother from some of her expenses caring for their child as a result of his remarriage. Although parents have the primary responsibility to support their children, a subsequent spouse’s income can affect support.
In Louisiana, children of divorced parents are granted certain protections from their parents' choices. For example, children are entitled to the same standard of living they enjoyed while their parents were married. Louisiana courts will consider a new spouse’s income as much as it affects the parent’s ability to provide child support.
Remarriage’s effects on child support depend on the specific circumstances of each family. Remarriage can, but won’t always, justify a change in support. If you have questions about the impact of remarriage on child support in Louisiana, contact a local family law attorney for advice.