The laws in many states provide that the remarriage of either parent should not have any effect on their child support order, but this isn’t always the case. In most situations, your ex’s remarriage won’t automatically change the amount of child support you receive, but laws vary a great deal from state to state.
Modifying Child Support
Courts will generally modify child support if a significant change of circumstances occurs post-divorce. Usually, this means the custody arrangement has changed or one parent has lost his or her job or, in contrast, experienced a financial windfall. Either parent can petition the court and ask a judge to review the new circumstances and recalculate the amount of support accordingly. Your ex might file a motion, claiming that he now has to support a new wife, and this is a change of circumstances that should reduce his support obligation to your children. However, he can’t get a court date without ample notice to you, and without serving you with a written copy of his motion. You’ll have time to prepare an argument against his request, or to retain an attorney for help. Just because he asks, it doesn’t mean the court will grant his request.
Effect of Remarriage
Unless your ex marries someone of substantial wealth, his remarriage usually won’t warrant an increase in your child support order. New spouses are usually under no legal obligation to help support their stepchildren. However, this varies significantly by state. The Texas family law code does not consider remarriage a change of circumstances, regardless of how much his new spouse earns. Illinois judges might consider his remarriage if his new spouse is very well-off, and his income is not needed to support their household. If your ex-husband tries to convince the court that he can’t pay his child support obligation because he now has to support a new wife, his odds of success also vary by state law. For example, New Jersey judges take the position that he and his new wife will have to give up a few luxuries so he can continue to accommodate his child support obligation.
If your ex-husband remarries, and if he and his new wife have children together, this usually changes the situation. The laws in most states staunchly protect all children’s rights to support from their parents. The court might reduce your child support, because some of your ex’s income must divert to his children with his new wife -- they have the same right to support as your children do. In New Jersey, courts calculate his new children's financial needs, taking his new wife’s income into consideration. The rationale is that she is helping to support their children as well. This number is then deducted from the income he has available to support your children. When a non-custodial parent’s income is less, his child support obligation is less. However, Massachusetts will not allow judges to consider subsequent children as a reason to reduce a support order. Your ex could only use his new family as a defense against an increase in support if you sought one.
Child Support Arrears
If your ex-husband is in arrears, his remarriage might affect whether you get the money he owes you. If he hasn't been paying, you can ask your state to intercept his federal tax refund to satisfy his past due payments. The Internal Revenue Service will cooperate. If he and his new wife file a joint married return, the IRS will intercept her portion of the refund as well. However, the IRS allows “injured spouse” claims, and if she acts quickly enough, she might be able to get a refund of her share of the money.
References & Resources
- John K. Grubb & Associates: Houston Child Support and Remarriage
- IllinoisDivorce.com: Establishing Child Support
- Chamlin, Rosen, Uliano & Witherington: New Remarriage and Second Families – The Effect on Child Support and Alimony
- California Department of Child Support Services: General FAQs
- Arizona Department of Economic Security: Establishing a Child Support Order Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- The Massachusetts Court System: Child Support Guidelines
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Federal Tax Refund Offset Program