Remarriage and Child Support in Missouri

Learn how remarriage affects child support in Missouri

By , Attorney · Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School
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A parent's remarriage can ring in a number of a changes, including changes to child support. Because no two families are exactly the same, remarriage affects child support differently in each case. If you have children, it's important to consider the implications of remarriage on your child support payments. This article provides an overview of the effects of remarriage on child support in Missouri. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.

Overview of Child Support in Missouri

Every child is entitled to financial support from his or her parents. A judge will issue a child support order assigning one parent to pay child support to the other. However, both parents have an ongoing duty to support their children whether from a current or previous relationship.

The Missouri legislature established child support guidelines to make it easier to calculate child support. In Missouri, support awards are based primarily on a parent's gross earnings. A parent's gross income includes his or her salary, bonuses, tips, commissions, royalties, social security benefits and capital gains.

Nevertheless, in some cases, a court may require a parent to pay less or more child support than required by the support guidelines. To determine if a deviation is appropriate, a judge will evaluate the parents' financial needs and resources, the child's needs, and visitation and childcare expenses. For example, a judge may increase a parent's support obligation if a child has special needs or extraordinary medical expenses. A child support award will continue until a child turns 18 (or longer if specified in the order) or until a court modifies the award.

Impact of Remarriage on Child Support in Missouri

In many cases, a parent's remarriage won't do much to alter child support. A parent's duty to financially support his or her child continues regardless of whether he or she has a new spouse. Moreover, a stepparent who financially supports a child because the child's other parent is shirking his or her responsibilities, the stepparent can seek reimbursement from the deadbeat parent.

A new spouse's household contributions can affect support payments. A judge will consider the overall financial condition of each parent when determining support. What this means is that a judge may increase a remarried parent's support obligation if a new spouse covers all of the household expenses. The reasoning is that a parent with fewer expenses usually has more money available to pay support. Nevertheless, this isn't always the case. In one Missouri case, the court denied a father's request to reduce child support. The mother's subsequent spouse earned much more than the child's father. Nevertheless, the court determined that the father was able to pay child support and his obligation wasn't terminated by the mother's remarriage.

A parent can't avoid his or her child support obligation by remarrying. Remarriage can be expensive, especially if it adds additional children. However, a child's right to financial support continues even if a parent's circumstances change. A child support order will remain in place until a child turns 18 (or as otherwise specified in the order) or until it's modified.

Modifying a Child Support Order

Either parent can request a support modification any time there's been a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change can be an adjustment to either parent's lifestyle, finances or living arrangements. Specifically, one Missouri case defined a substantial change as a change to a parent's financial resources, or a parent's earning capacity.

Can a Judge Consider a New Spouse's Income?

A new spouse's income can't be considered in a parent's child support modification case. A stepparent's income is not the same as a parent's. Nevertheless, a stepparent is obligated to support a stepchild if the child lives in his or her same household. The stepparent can seek reimbursement from the child's parent for money that he or she pays to support the stepchild. However, a judge can't consider the stepparent's income and support contributions when determining a parent's support obligation.

A parent's complete financial picture is relevant to child support. While a stepparent's income can't be considered in a modification case, his or her contributions can. Thus, a subsequent spouse who covers all household and maintenance expenses may unintentionally increase a parent's child support obligation. Missouri law assumes that a parent with fewer expenses and no rent obligations has more money available to pay child support.

Remarriage can, but won't always affect child support. The circumstances of your particular case will determine remarriage's effect on support payments. If a remarriage is in your future plans, it's important to understand how your child support obligation may be adjusted. If you have questions about the impact of remarriage on child support payments in Missouri, contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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