When Delaware couples divorce, the court issues a divorce decree describing the terms of the split, including child support, property division, child custody and alimony. When a parent remarries, his new spouse is not required to pay child support for his children from another relationship. However, the new spouse’s income can affect the calculation of child support since it impacts the available income a paying parent has available to pay toward his child support obligation.
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Delaware family courts assign income and calculate child support according to a method called the Melson formula, unless a judge believes it would be unfair to a parent to use this formula or if it would not be in the child’s best interests. The Melson formula considers the primary needs of the child, child care expenses generated because of a parent’s employment, extraordinary medical expenses and standard-of-living adjustments to create an amount for the child’s total needs. Then, the formula divides that total needs amount between the parents based on the percentage of income each parent earns. The formula also factors in the number of children and the number of overnights each parent has with the children.
Under Delaware’s formula, each parent is entitled to keep a minimum amount of income for his basic needs, but after that minimum is met, the children’s needs must be met before the parent gets to keep any additional income. If there is any income available after the primary needs of the parents and children are met, the children have the right to share in any additional income of the parents.
Other Family Members
Delaware’s child support calculation factors in the number of children from any other relationship that each parent also supports. If a parent remarries and has additional children to support, he will have less income available for support than before his new marriage. When a parent remarries or cohabits with another person, that person’s income is not part of the child support calculation under the Melson formula, but it is relevant to the primary support level of the paying parent. The amount of support the paying parent needs for his own primary support is less if he lives with another working adult, since the other adult contributes to the costs of the household. If a parent paying child support has lower living expenses because his new spouse is also working, the paying parent may have additional income available to share with his children from a previous marriage.
Since circumstances often change after a court enters its original child support order, either parent can ask a Delaware court to review a support order after two and a half years. Parents can ask for a review sooner if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as a significant increase or decrease in either parent’s income or a change in the child’s expenses, including medical or child care expenses. To ask the court for a review, a parent must file a Petition for Modification, usually with the same court that issued the most recent support order.