Whether to remarry after a divorce is a big decision. If you live in Oklahoma and pay child support, you may want to consider the possible impact of remarriage on your support obligations. This article addresses that issue. If you have questions about remarriage and child support in Oklahoma, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Certain guidelines govern child support in Oklahoma. These assume that all families incur certain child-rearing expenses and include an average support amount to cover these expenses, based on the parents’ combined income and the number of children. Some of the sources of income considered are:
In addition to income, the court also looks at health coverage for the child and job-related child care costs. Once the total support figure is calculated, it’s assigned between the parents proportionate to their incomes.
You can find more information about the guidelines and calculation of child support at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services website.
Under certain circumstances the court can attribute or “impute” income to a parent. This normally occurs when the court finds that a parent is willfully and voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. In determining whether to impute income (and how much), the court considers a number of factors, including:
Oklahoma law provides that there’s a rebuttable presumption that the guidelines support award is correct. “Rebuttable” means that you have some leeway to prove to the court that the guidelines shouldn’t necessarily be followed in your case.
The law indicates that there shouldn’t be a deviation from the guidelines if it would seriously impair the ability of the parent receiving support to maintain the child’s minimum adequate needs. That aside, the court may vary from the guidelines if it finds that using them in a particular case would be unjust or inappropriate, such as instances of extreme economic hardship, or extraordinary education expenses.
If you believe that your child support order should be changed, you can apply to the court for a modification. Oklahoma law says that child support orders may be modified if there’s a material change in circumstances. The law gives examples of situations that could give rise to a material change, such as:
So how does remarriage fit into the equation? Is it a material change in circumstances that would affect child support?
Although the possibility of remarriage impacting child support exists in Oklahoma, whether it actually will is questionable. The section of the guidelines law that currently addresses modification of a child support order doesn’t specifically rule out remarriage as a sufficient change in circumstances. But other parts of the law seem to weigh against that prospect.
In the past, under what is known as common law, remarriage wasn’t relevant to child support. Why? Because your new spouse had no obligation to support your children from a prior relationship. That is still the law in Oklahoma. So in that respect, remarriage wouldn’t appear to be relevant to child support.
But what about the arrival of a new child from a remarriage?
The Oklahoma legislature changed the guidelines, effective 2009, and these changes give us some insight into how it currently views the issue of a new child affecting child support. Before the changes, the law said that the court could take a new child into consideration in determining child support. And as far as modifying a child support order, it also said that providing support for children born or adopted after the order was entered was not alone a material change in circumstances. The implication was that the court could at least view a new child as one factor, among others, in deciding a modification request. However, the 2009 amendments removed all that language.
There's further evidence of the legislature’s mindset on this issue. In calculating child support, the current guidelines provide for a deduction from a party’s gross income for “qualified other children.” Is a new child included in that term? It doesn’t appear so, since the law says that this deduction applies to a child who was bornprior to the child who is the subject of the support order being reviewed.
Based on its amendments, it seems the legislature doesn’t want a new child affecting child support. So why does the heading to this section of the article use the term “unclear?” The reason is that there’s an Oklahoma case that holds that the court must consider all of the facts and circumstances in existence at the time of a child support modification request, including new children. But that case was decided before the 2009 amendments, and appears to rely on the old language in the law. However, it’s still on the books. So how a court would now rule on this issue remains to be seen.
This article is only meant to give you a general idea of the issues involved with the topic of remarriage and child support in Oklahoma. If you need advice, be sure to consult a qualified family law attorney with any questions you may have.