Marrying after the end of a previous relationship is a time of joy and celebration. However, if you have a child from a previous relationship, you may have questions about how the marriage will impact your child support situation.
How Child Support is Calculated
Child support is regular payments by one parent to the other to help support the child’s needs. In New York state, the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) sets out how child support is calculated.
To determine child support, the court totals the parents’ incomes, multiplies that figure by a percentage determined by the number of children involved:
- 17% for one child
- 25% for two children
- 29% for three children
- 31% for four children
- 35% for five or more children
Once the total amount of money needed to support the children is determined, the judge divides that amount between the two parents by looking at the proportion of their incomes to the combined income. This establishes the base amount of child support for the case. One parent is ordered to pay the other parent a set amount.
If the parents’ combined income is over the threshold of $154,000, the court then applies an additional analysis to the income that is over that amount. The court then has the leeway and discretion to consider a variety of factors when determining the amount of support due from the income that exceeds the threshold, including:
- The child’s physical and emotional health and health needs
- The parents’ education needs, if any
- The tax consequences to the parents
- A determination that one parent earns substantially more than the other
The child support for the basic amount is then combined with the child support required from the income over the threshold to determine the total payment. The court may then add on health insurance costs for the child as well as expenses such as educational costs for the child.
A New Marriage for the Paying Parent
In general, getting married does not have an impact on child support. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If the parent who is paying child support enters into a new marriage, the new marriage could impact the child support if the new spouse is much wealthier than the paying parent.
For example, suppose Dave, an actor who earns $1 million per year from his small roles on stage, marries Kendra, the primary owner of a very successful shapewear company, who earns $50 million per year. In that case, the court could possibly find that the child support that was set before the marriage is “unjust and inappropriate” in the circumstances and order an increase.
This is most likely to be the case though, only if Dave either stops working or is able to start saving all of his income and doesn’t have to use any of it for living expenses because Kendra is supporting him. The court can then impute income to Dave because Kendra is paying for most of his living costs. Because Dave no longer needs to support himself, he has additional discretionary income that could be applied to child support.
The other circumstance in which child support could be adjusted in light of a new marriage is if the paying parent has a child with their new spouse (either before or after the wedding). The addition of a new child to the new family likely means that the paying parent needs to support that child, so the new child would be considered in adjusting the child support. The result could be a reduction in child support due from the paying parent.
A New Marriage for the Recipient Parent
If the parent who receives child support marries, the same rule applies that a new marriage in and of itself does not automatically impact child support. If the recipient parent marries and their new spouse is much wealthier, there is a possibility the court could reduce the amount of child support the paying parent is responsible for. The court would impute income to the recipient parent if the new spouse is supporting them. This would then change the total amount of income involved in the child support calculations and could reduce what the paying parent would be responsible for.
If the recipient parent has a new child either before or during the new marriage, child support could be increased to reflect the fact that that parents’ resources are stretched in order to provide for all of the children. This only applies if the new couple’s household income is less than the paying parent’s combined income and the recipient parent. In this situation, the family’s resources would be stretched thin to provide for the new child, and an increase in child support could be ordered from the paying parent.
How to Seek a Child Support Modification
Child support in New York state can be modified in one of three situations:
- A substantial change in circumstances from when the order was issued
- Three years have passed since the order was issued, modified, or adjusted
- There has been an involuntary change in either parent’s income, either up or down, by at least 15 percent since the last order was issued, modified, or adjusted
A new marriage or addition of a new child may qualify for the first situation. And if a parent marries a very wealthy new spouse, the requirement in the third situation might be triggered. If you qualify for a modification in child support, your attorney will request one from the court, and the court needs all of your updated financial information.