Remarriage creates a lot of unknowns, especially if you're a parent. What will my future look like? How will my children be affected? Will child support payments change? The rules covering child support upon a parent's remarriage vary in each state. This article provides an overview of remarriage's effects on child support in Mississippi. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Every divorce or separation case involving minor children will result in a child support order. A judge will use both parents' incomes to calculate support. However, a child support order will only require one parent to pay support.
Mississippi established support guidelines to assist judges and parents in calculating child support awards. Mississippi's guidelines streamline the child support process and help keep awards consistent from case to case. The guidelines use the parents' gross net incomes to calculate support. A parent's gross earnings include wages, salary, dividends, tips, unemployment or disability benefits, social security payments, worker's compensation payments or stock dividends.
The Mississippi support guideline amount is presumed fair unless special circumstances exist. However, a judge can consider additional factors like a parent's extraordinary needs or child's medical expenses as grounds to depart from the guidelines. A child support deviation may be appropriate in cases involving a child with special needs or where a parent's visitation costs are very expensive.
A child support order is rarely permanent. Child support awards last until a child turns 18 (or as otherwise specified in the order) or until the court modifies support.
Remarriage alone won't necessarily impact child support in Mississippi. A stepparent can't be forced to provide financial support for a child that is not legally or biologically his or her own. Moreover, a parent can't escape support obligations simply because his or her ex-spouse has remarried.
For example, in one Mississippi case, the court increased a father's child support obligation following his ex's remarriage. The father's income had increased and the mother had remarried a very wealthy man following the couple's divorce. Ultimately, the court held that the mother's remarriage didn't minimize the father's obligation to provide for his children.
Nevertheless, remarriage can have a major impact on support if it adds new adopted or biological children to your family. In Mississippi, a judge can consider additional dependents when deciding whether to adjust child support. The thinking behind this rule is that new children shouldn't be denied support because of a parent's prior support obligation. A court will balance the needs of both families and determine if an adjustment is warranted.
Child support orders can be modified at any time and by either parent as long as there's been a substantial change in circumstances. The parent seeking the modification must file a formal request and supporting financial documentation with the court. A substantial change may include a parent's job loss, promotion or in certain cases, a remarriage.
A new spouse's income is off limits in a child support case. The Mississippi child support guidelines use a parent's income - but not a new spouse's - to determine support. However, a subsequent spouse's financial contributions are almost always relevant in a support modification case.
In each support case, a judge considers each parent's ability to meet his or her basic financial needs such as mortgage payments, food costs and utilities. A new spouse's contributions are relevant when they relieve a parent of some household expenses. Specifically, in one Mississippi case, the court denied a remarried father's request to reduce support. The father sought a reduction because he'd remarried and now had additional expenses associated with supporting his new family. However, the court found no change in circumstances given the fact the father's new wife contributed to his household expenses.
Additionally, in another Mississippi case the court denied a mother's request to increase support even though the father's income had increased. She was remarried and her new husband covered all her living expenses and the home mortgage. The court refused the mother's request because her expenses were minimal while the father's costs associated with visitation were extremely high.
Although divorce and remarriage can saddle a parent with unexpected costs, a child is entitled to continued financial support. A parent can't avoid his or her child support obligation by taking a lower-paying job or by remarrying. When possible, every child is entitled to the same standard of living enjoyed during his or her parents' marriage. For a remarried parent, this means balancing a new family's needs and expenses with support payments to child from a previous relationship.
Remarriage affects no two families the same way. If you have children, make sure you understand remarriage's potential impact on child support before you tie the knot. If you have additional questions about how remarriage affects child support in Mississippi, contact a local family law attorney for advice.