Divorce & Stepparents

by Heather Frances Google

When you or your ex-spouse remarries after divorce, arrangements from your previous marriage may need to change. For example, a court may change your child support arrangements and can even change your custody arrangements if necessary. Even your child’s ability to obtain financial aid can be affected by your new spouse’s income.

Child Support

When you remarry, your new spouse’s income is almost never calculated into child support because the new stepparent has no legal obligation to support his stepchildren. However, your ex-spouse might petition the court for a modification of the child support amount anyway. If the judge considers factors other than income when determining the child support amount, your remarriage could change your child support payments. For example, if the child support you pay was reduced because of debts you owed, your child support may be increased if your new spouse pays those debts.

Custody

If you are the noncustodial parent, your remarriage typically will not affect your custody arrangement since there is no significant change of circumstances in your child’s primary home. However, if you are the custodial parent, your remarriage can provide the basis for your ex-spouse to seek to change the custody arrangement, particularly if the stepparent is abusive. Even without abuse, the court could change custody if the new living situation is not in the best interest of your child.

Financial Aid

When your child applies for financial aid for college, he will fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which determines what financial aid he can receive. If you are the custodial parent, the stepparent’s financial information must be submitted on the FAFSA, even if you and the stepparent signed a prenuptial agreement that relieves the stepparent from financial responsibility for your child’s education.

Stepparent Rights

The stepparent will not normally have any custody rights should you and your new spouse divorce. A biological parent has a fundamental constitutional right to his children, and a third party, such as a stepparent, is not usually allowed to interfere with this right by obtaining custody. Depending on your state’s laws, however, the stepparent could have a limited ability to obtain custody in very unusual circumstances, such as if the stepparent adopted the child or when both you and your ex-spouse are unfit to raise the child.