Will My Income Be Counted if I Marry Him and He Owes Back Child Support?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Will My Income Be Counted if I Marry Him and He Owes Back Child Support?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

If you are considering marrying someone with children, you may wonder if your income will be considered and perhaps even counted towards his back child support obligation. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

Woman looking down at child across from man

Understanding Child Support

Depending on the jurisdiction, child support can end at different times, such as when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. While each state has its own guidelines, each state calculates child support based on the income of both parents, the amount of parenting time each parent is awarded, and any prior children either party has. Courts also count health insurance, other medical expenses, day care costs, school expenses, and other special needs when evaluating the responsibilities of both parents regarding child support.

Courts do not directly consider the income of a new spouse when assessing child support obligations. However, you may find you are still facing financial consequences due to your spouse's back child support obligation.

Understanding Back Child Support

"Back child support" refers to child support previously ordered by the court but not paid by the responsible party. Back child support might reflect child support owed but not paid during a period of unemployment or financial difficulty. Alternatively, it may reflect a gap between the time child support was increased and the time the government began collecting the additional amount. Finally, child support arrears could reflect any amount owed between the time the couple split and the time the court ordered child support.

Understanding How Back Child Support Is Collected

Back child support is collected in a number of different ways. First, courts expect that a parent who owes an ongoing child support obligation pays both the current monthly child support obligation and a portion of back child support each month. This can be done by voluntary payment or wage garnishment.

The government also employs methods of recapture, the term for when the government actively takes steps to collect back child support. For example, if your soon-to-be spouse qualifies for a tax return, the government may take the tax return and apply it to the child support arrears. If you are married to someone with a back child support obligation and you file jointly, you can expect the government to recapture the return up to the amount owed, unless you file special paperwork with the IRS. Many state governments will also use recapture to take lottery winnings to pay back child support.

Joint property may also be subject to recapture. Depending on the jurisdiction, the government may file a lien on real or personal property. Any property in the name of the person who owes child support is subject to such a lien.


When Courts Consider Your Income for Your Spouse's Child Support

If the court believes your spouse is intentionally attempting to avoid child support payments—for example, by quitting her job and refusing to find another—the court may consider your income. Parents are expected to support their children, and when a parent takes action seemingly to avoid this obligation, courts look to other possible sources of income.

Additionally, in some states, ongoing child support is considered the obligation of parents and stepparents. For back child support incurred after the marriage, it is possible you will also be considered an eligible party for child support obligations. In this case, depending on the jurisdiction, your wages may be subject to garnishment.

Protecting Your Property and Assets

Couples are encouraged to consider a prenuptial agreement prior to entering into any marriage. Particularly when one party may have financial obligations that precede the marriage, both parties may benefit from a clearly written prenuptial agreement, designating property each spouse brings to the marriage and a clear plan to keep premarital property separate.

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.