Can I Go After My Ex-Husband's New Wife's Income for More Child Support in California?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

Can I Go After My Ex-Husband's New Wife's Income for More Child Support in California?

By Jennifer Kiesewetter, J.D.

If you've been through a divorce or you're currently going through a divorce, you know that calculating child support is complicated and frustrating. In California, all parents must care for their children financially, whether they're married or divorced.

Little girl eating a muffin sitting on a green couch with a woman reading a book

If your ex-spouse remarries, the new spouse is not responsible for providing for your children financially, in most cases. In certain situations, however, the new spouse's income may become part of community property shared with your ex-spouse and be considered in the child support calculation.

California's child support guidelines lay out the factors taken into consideration for the complex formula when determining child support in a divorce.

California Factors for Child Support

When determining child support in California, judges consider the following:

  • Each parent's net income
  • Each parent's tax liability
  • The number of children needing financial assistance
  • The custody arrangement
  • Any health insurance costs
  • Any other factors that are relevant

Exceptions to the General Spousal Income Rule

In 1994, California enacted Family Code Section 4057.5, which revised the child support guidelines. This new law included a ban on new spouse income in child support calculations. However, the new law does consider a new spouse's income in extraordinary cases, "where excluding that income would lead to extreme and severe hardship to any child subject to the child support award."

Some examples of extraordinary cases are the ex-spouse's unemployment, underemployment, or reliance on the new spouse's income. In those cases, the family law judge would request income information from the new spouse for further consideration of the child support calculation.

Impact of Community Property on Child Support

Although in most cases, the new spouse's income is not used in the child support calculation, the joint income of the ex-spouse and new spouse may affect the child support calculation. For example, California's child support guidelines use after-tax income in the child support calculation. Since California is a community property state, the parent must include one-half of the couple's community property on his or her tax return. The new spouse's income could push the ex-spouse's salary into a higher tax bracket, which could affect the after-tax income and thus the amount of child support owed.

Also because California is a community property state, if your ex-spouse stops paying child support, the family law court can enforce the child support order against the ex-spouse and new spouse's community property. However, this enforcement would exclude the new spouse's current income.

Modification of Child Support

Courts only modify child support if there's been a significant change in circumstances affecting one or both parents. Further, the change must be substantial and permanent. Examples of significant changes include a change in the custody arrangement, a significant increase in compensation for one parent, or one parent involuntarily losing a job.

Because child support calculations are complex, the consequences of not understanding the law or your particular circumstances can impact your children. You can hire a divorce attorney to assist you in understanding California family law. When your family is your biggest concern, it's often best to seek professional legal help from a professional to guide you through your options.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.