Remarriage can be a major lifestyle change, especially if you have children from a previous relationship. Many couples get remarried without considering the potential effects on child support. Since every case is different, it's important to understand how remarriage may affect your family's situation.
This article provides an overview of remarriage's impact on child support in Minnesota. If you have questions after reading this article, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Every support or divorce case involving children will result in a child support order. Typically, an order will require the noncustodial parent to pay support to the custodial parent (parent with whom the child lives). Nevertheless, both parents have a duty to provide shelter, food, and support to their children, regardless of marital status.
In Minnesota, the child support guidelines help parents and judges calculate support. Child support is based on the parents' incomes, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and the number of children the support order covers. For purposes of calculating child support, a parent's gross earnings include salaries, bonuses, tips, commissions, social security payments, worker's compensation payments, stock dividends, gambling winnings and trust income.
Nevertheless, formula-based child support isn't appropriate in every case. A court can deviate from Minnesota's child support guidelines if certain circumstances exist. A judge will balance each parent's financial obligations with the child's needs and expenses. For example, a parent's child support obligation may be increased if she or he has a child with special needs or significant medical bills. Child support will continue as required by the order until a child reaches 18 or the support order is modified.
Remarriage won't always affect child support payments. Specifically, a parent's support obligation continues even after he or she remarries. In one Minnesota case, a remarried father's attempt to stop paying child support backfired. The father's duty to support his child continued even though he had increased financial obligations because of his new wife and her two children.
In another Minnesota case, a court adjusted the child support order because under the original order the mother's child support award ended when she remarried. The couple's divorce labeled child support as part of the mother's maintenance and specified that it should terminate upon remarriage. The court decided that the end of the mother's support payments was a substantial change in circumstances and that child support should be reinstated.
A judge won't let a child be the victim of a parent's remarriage. In other words, a parent can't shirk a prior support obligation simply because he or she has another family to support. A judge will balance the needs of both families to determine if child support should be adjusted.
A parent can file a request to adjust support if there's been a substantial change in either parent's circumstances. The employment or financial change must be significant and ongoing to justify a change to support. Minnesota defines the grounds to modify support as:
A new spouse's household and financial contributions can't be construed as an increase in a parent's income. Child support is based upon a parent's earnings – not a spouse's. Moreover, a stepparent has no duty to financially support a child that is not his or hers.
But a judge will consider a parent's complete financial situation when deciding support. This means a subsequent spouse's contributions may affect support in certain cases. For instance, a judge can increase child support in cases where a parent's mortgage, car loan, and living expenses are covered by a new spouse. Nevertheless, a new spouse's or employer's contributions must be substantial to justify a change in support.
For example, in one Minnesota case the court refused to increase the father's support obligation even though his employer paid for some food and travel expenses. The father's food budget was reduced by his employer's reimbursement for certain meal costs when he traveled. However, the minimal contributions didn't amount to a substantial change in circumstances.
Remarriage may, but doesn't always justify a change in child support. Each case and family is different. If you have questions about the impact of remarriage on child support in Minnesota, you should reach out to a local family law attorney for advice.