A remarriage can affect your pocketbook in more ways than you think. For spouses with children from a previous relationship, a remarriage may impact child support payments. Changes to child support won’t necessarily change your wedding plans; nevertheless, it’s worth understanding how remarriage affects support. This article provides an overview of remarriage’s impact on child support in Nebraska. If after reading this article you have questions, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Alongside parenthood comes every parent’s responsibility to financially support his or her child. That responsibility begins the moment a child is born until he or she reaches the age of majority, or in some cases even longer. Nebraska’s legislature enacted support guidelines to streamline the process of calculating child support. The guidelines keep support awards consistent and fair in each case.
Child support in Nebraska is based primarily on the parents’ gross monthly incomes. For child support purposes, a parent’s gross monthly income includes the parent’s salary, tips, commissions, bonuses, social security benefits, worker’s compensation payments, disability received, capital gains and royalties. Nebraska’s child support guidelines allow a parent or a judge to plug the parents’ incomes into a formula and create a child support award.
In limited cases, a judge may order a parent to pay a support amount that’s different than what’s required under the guidelines. A deviation from the child support guidelines may be appropriate if a child has special needs, a parent is disabled or a parent has very limited monthly expenses. However, financial circumstances can change over time and so can support.
A parent, but not his or her new spouse, can request to modify child support. Child support may be adjusted if there’s been a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change can be a job loss, a job promotion, the birth of a new baby or a remarriage, as long as the change accompanies a change in either parent’s finances.
A parent’s new spouse has no duty to support a child that isn’t his or her own. Nebraska law prohibits judges from assigning a new spouse’s income to the remarried parent. Specifically, in one Nebraska case, a cohabitating partner’s contributions to the mother’s household expenses weren’t considered additional income available for support. Nebraska’s child support guidelines base child support awards on the gross monthly incomes of the child’s parents – not the incomes of parents’ subsequent partners.
Nevertheless, a new spouse’s household contributions are relevant in a child support modification action. In another Nebraska case, the court used a boyfriend’s financial contributions to the mother’s expenses to deviate from the child support guidelines. Because the mother was receiving financial assistance from her boyfriend to cover household and basic living expenses, the court reasoned she had more income available to pay additional support. In many cases, a remarried parent may find his or her child support obligation increased.
Additionally, a court can assign or “impute” income to an unemployed or underemployed parent when calculating child support. A new spouse’s income is irrelevant to child support and a court can’t assign a new spouse’s income to a parent. However in some circumstances, a court can impute income to a parent who quits his or her job after remarrying.
Before imputing income to a parent, a judge will review the following:
In some cases, a judge won’t impute income to a parent who earned more previously. For example, a parent caring for a young child or a mentally or physically incapacitated parent won’t be expected to earn more.
Remarriage alone doesn’t alter a parent’s legal duty to support to his or her child. Although caring for two families can be expensive, a parent’s support obligations won’t end just because his or her expenses increase. However, a financially-strapped parent can file a request to modify child support based on his or her remarriage. In one Nebraska case, the court denied a father’s request to reduce support based on his remarriage. The court concluded that the father’s additional expenses due to remarriage were expected, and he was still just as able to provide child support.
Alternatively, remarriage can mark a substantial financial change for some parents. For example, a judge can reduce a parent’s support obligation if the parent has a new baby as a result of remarriage. Moreover, a parent with reduced monthly expenses because of a subsequent spouse’s financial assistance may find his or her child support obligation increased. Ultimately, a judge will balance the needs of both families when deciding whether to adjust a remarried parent’s child support obligation.
Remarriage's effects on child support can be complicated and far-reaching. It’s important to understand how your remarriage or your ex-spouse’s remarriage can alter child support in your case. If you have additional questions about the impact of remarriage on support payments in Nebraska, contact a local family law attorney for advice.