Are you a divorced parent living in Wyoming, with remarriage in your future? Then this article should interest you. If you have a child support order in effect, will tying the knot impact support obligations? Let’s find out.
Courts in Wyoming use formulas (called guidelines) to calculate child support. These guidelines take into account both parents’ combined incomes, as well as the number of children involved. The court applies a support schedule contained in the guidelines and reaches a total support figure. It then divides that figure proportionately between the parents, based on their individual incomes. The court will also order either or both parents to provide for the children’s medical needs.
The term “income” includes various sources. Some of these are:
Overtime isn’t included, unless the court believes it will consistently continue. Also, a new spouse’s earnings don't fall into the “income source” category.
If a court finds that either parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, it can attribute or “impute” income to that parent, based on potential earning ability. When considering whether to impute income, the court will look at a number of items, including:
If you’d like more information on child support, visit the Wyoming Department of Family Services website.
Wyoming law presumes that a support award issued under the guidelines is the correct amount. But that presumption is “rebuttable,” meaning the law recognizes that there may be situations where using the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate. In that case, judges may deviate from the guidelines. The law provides several factors a court should consider in deciding whether to take this step. Some of these are:
An example of a situation in which the court deviated from the guidelines was where a mother (who was paying support) claimed she couldn’t afford the presumed support amount. She had health issues, as well as responsibility for caring for a special needs child from her new marriage. These facts affected her employment capabilities. In light of this, the court ordered a lower support figure than the guidelines calculation.
Can you modify a child support order? Absolutely. But you need a good reason. Wyoming law provides that, subject to certain time constraints, if the support amount you’re requesting varies by 20% or more from the current amount, you can seek a review of the order. Other than that, you’ll have to show the court that there’s been a substantial change of circumstances since the last order was entered. The court should consider all of the circumstances surrounding a support order modification request, such as the children’s reasonable needs, and the parents’ responsibilities and ability to contribute to support.
For additional information on modifying a support order, take a look at Wyoming Statutes § 20-2-311.
So where does remarriage fit into all of this? Is it a substantial change of circumstances that can lead to a child support modification?
Does remarriage automatically require a child support change? No. Remarriage on its own isn’t normally a valid reason to adjust support. That’s because your new spouse has no duty to support your children from past relationships. In fact, earlier in this article you saw that you can’t use a spouse’s income in calculating child support, but that income may be relevant to a modification request for a different reason.
While a new spouse’s income isn’t directly included in a child support calculation, it can impact your ability to pay support. How? It’s very common for a spouse to contribute to the household expenses, like the mortgage or rent, utilities and groceries. That decreases the amount you personally need to spend on those costs. In effect, this frees up some of your individual income, which could then go toward child support. This is a scenario that a court can consider when reviewing a support modification request.
Remarriage can give rise to another relevant support factor, a new child. Unlike in the past, many states, Wyoming included, now acknowledge a new child’s significance when addressing an existing child support situation. Notice that one of the items a court should consider in deciding whether to deviate from the child support guidelines is “other” children. And Wyoming case law confirms that a parent’s obligation to new children must be considered when deciding whether to change an existing child support order. But be aware that having a new child doesn’t guarantee a support modification. It’s simply another factor for a court to take into account.
The issue of remarriage and child support in Wyoming is complex, and this article is only meant as an overview of the topic. If you find yourself in this situation, consult with a qualified family lawyer as to any questions you may have.