Remarriage and Child Support in Michigan

A look at remarriage’s effects on child support in Michigan.

Parents with children may unwittingly affect their child support obligations by remarrying. Remarriage’s effects on child support are different in every case. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering how your future wedding plans may alter your child support payments. This article provides an overview of remarriage and child support in Michigan. If you have specific questions about your case, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Michigan Child Support Basics

When parents separate or divorce, a court will create a child support order. The order will typically require the noncustodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent (parent with whom child primarily lives). Nevertheless, both parents have a continuing duty to financially support their children.

Michigan’s child support guidelines help parents and judges easily calculate support based on the parents’ incomes, parenting time, and number of children. A parent must know his or her gross income to calculate support. Gross earnings include salaries, bonuses, commissions, tips, social security benefits, disability payments, gambling winnings, and capital gains. Typically, a one-time payment like a gift or inheritance won’t be considered income for child support purposes.

In some cases, a judge can deviate from the child support guidelines. A child support order can add in anticipated daycare or transportation expenses. Moreover, an increased child support award may be appropriate if a child has significant medical expenses or requires around-the-clock care. Child support will continue until a child turns 18, or longer if specified in the order.

Modifying a Child Support Order

Either parent can file a request to modify child support at any time after the order has been entered. However, a judge won’t alter support unless there’s been a material change in either parent’s circumstances. Situations that may amount to a substantial change in circumstances include a job layoff, the birth of a new baby, a promotion, or in some cases, a remarriage.

A New Spouse’s Income May Be Considered

A court won’t directly consider a new spouse’s income when calculating child support. However, a parent’s financial status following a remarriage is relevant to any support action. Specifically, in one Michigan case, the court increased the father’s child support obligation because the mother’s finances deteriorated following her remarriage. By remarrying, the mother’s alimony award was terminated and not reinstated following her subsequent divorce. The court adjusted the father’s child support obligation because of his increased income and the mother’s desperate financial condition.

A judge will look at the parents’ entire financial picture and child’s needs before modifying support. A parent’s lifestyle and financial assets are relevant to a support modification action. Lifestyle changes will include the fact that a new spouse is contributing to household expenses, which will in turn, increase the amount of income a parent has available to pay child support. The logic behind a court’s consideration of a parent’s overall lifestyle is that a parent with fewer expenses and more available income is better able to pay support.

A Court May Impute Income

Voluntarily unemployed parents can't simply shirk their child support obligations. Disability benefits, social security benefits, and worker’s compensation payments are all considered income for purposes of calculating child support. Moreover, a court can impute or assign income to an unemployed or underemployed parent who is earning less than his or her potential. A child support award can then be calculated using the parent’s imputed income. As a result, the parent’s support obligation will be higher than if it was based on his or her actual income.

Courts won’t impute income unless it’s necessary and obvious a parent should be earning more. A court will review the following factors to determine if income should be imputed to a parent:

  • the parent’s recent work history
  • the parent’s historical earnings
  • the parent’s vocational or trade skills
  • the parent’s education level
  • the parent’s efforts to find employment
  • the average salaries in the community, and
  • any other factor the court deems relevant.

Additionally, a court will consider an unemployed or underemployed parent’s health before imputing income. For example, a disabled or physically incapacitated parent won’t be expected to earn more.

It’s important to understand how your remarriage (or your ex-spouse’s remarriage) may affect your child’s support obligation. If you have questions about the effects of remarriage on child support in Michigan,  contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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