If you're a divorced parent in Texas, there's a reasonable chance that someday you'll consider remarrying. But if you decide to take that step, will it impact any child support order that may be in effect? This article looks at the issue of remarriage and child support in Texas.
In Texas, the courts determine child support awards by using certain legislative-established guidelines. An award is based primarily on the parents' combined income and the number of children involved. However, the courts also consider other factors, such as a child's health care needs.
Some income sources the court looks at in calculating child support are:
If a court finds that a parent is intentionally unemployed or underemployed, it can attribute or "impute" potential earnings to that parent in determining his or her income.
There are also certain permitted income deductions in the guidelines, including a credit for other children the support payer has a legal duty to support (children who aren't the subject of the child support order being considered).
You can find more information on child support in Texas on the Attorney General of Texas website.
Texas law presumes that a child support award entered pursuant to the guidelines is reasonable and in the child's best interest. However, the law also provides that the court must consider all relevant factors, to be sure that applying the guidelines isn't inappropriate or unjust in a particular case. The factors a court should look at include, among others:
You can request a child support award modification, but to be successful you'll have to meet certain conditions. In Texas, as with many states, ordinarily you must prove that there's been a material and substantial change of circumstances since the the current child support order was entered. To learn more about changing a child support order, you can check the Texas law, V.T.C.A., Family Code § 156.401.
There are any number of situations that can create a material and substantial change of circumstances. The question is, does remarriage qualify as one of them?
Why "possibly?" Because, under what is known as common law, remarriage alone doesn't normally qualify as a change of circumstances justifying a change to child support. But remarriage has two potential aspects that, in many states, do affect child support. One is a new child and the other is a new spouse's income. Are either of these relevant under Texas law?
A new child certainly plays a role in calculating child support under the guidelines. As seen in this article's first section, the law gives a parent an income credit for other children he or she has a legal duty to support.
Additionally, Texas case law supports the theory that a court should consider a new child in a child support modification application. In one case, the decision held that the court was required to consider all a parent's financial obligations, including, in that case, another wife and children. However, the court also ruled that economic hardship resulting from remarriage shouldn't "mitigate against" the dependent children from the earlier marriage. So what the court appears to be saying is that you can consider a new child in a support modification request, as long as the proposed support change doesn't harm the children from the prior relationship.
The Texas Family Code makes it clear that courts shouldn't consider a new spouse's income in calculating child support. But there's been a growing trend to allow courts to look at a new spouse's income to see if it affects your ability to pay child support. The reasoning is that your new spouse's income may offset some of your expenses. How so? Let's say your spouse contributes to certain household costs, such as mortgage, rent, utilities, or groceries. If that decreases the amount you have to spend, you'll have more money available to support your children. However, Texas courts have bucked this trend, and won't consider a new spouse's income in a child support modification request.
The topic of remarriage and child support in Texas is a complicated one. This article is only meant to give you a general idea of the issues involved. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to consult a qualified family law attorney with any questions you may have.