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Remarriage Affecting Child Support?

QUESTION: Does remarriage affect child support?

My ex-wife remarried a man who makes about 4x more than I do annually. Because of this she doesn’t have to work anymore.

I have continued to pay child support knowing that the step-parents income cannot be included in child support calculations. I may have misunderstood but I thought one of the purposes of child support was to provide similar living conditions for the children. This is obviously not the case for us.

It seems a bit silly to be paying child support every month to them when they don’t really need it. Even paying a little bit less would help me financially. What would you do in this case, if anything?

ANSWER: There may be one argument I can think of, and it is likely a long shot:

Utah Code § 78B-12-210 (Application of guidelines — Use of ordered child support) provides, in pertinent parts:

(9)(a)   A parent, legal guardian, or the office may at any time petition the court to adjust the amount of a child support order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

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(b)        For purposes of this Subsection (9), a substantial change in circumstances may include:

(i)         material changes in custody;

(ii)        material changes in the relative wealth or assets of the parties;

(iii)       material changes of 30% or more in the income of a parent;

(iv)       material changes in the employment potential and ability of a parent to earn;

(v)        material changes in the medical needs of the child; or

(vi)       material changes in the legal responsibilities of either parent for the support of others.

(emphasis added)

If your ex-wife’s new husband makes four times your income AND the amount he earns is by any reasonable standard “more than enough” (i.e., they have all the money they need to survive, plus plenty to spare for the care of stepchildren), then in light of the provisions of Utah Code § 78B-12-210(9)(a) and (9)(b)(ii), one could argue that your ex-wife’s re-marriage to a spouse constitutes a material change in the relative wealth and assets of you and your ex-wife. The argument, as you hinted at, would be something like this: when in the custody of their mother and her new husband the children enjoy a material lifestyle that is not as good as my lifestyle, it’s superior to mine. She now enjoys wealth and assets that are 4 times greater than mine, so why am I paying child support to her? She does not need my child support money to maintain her the lifestyle her husband provides her and the children.

The problem you will likely face with such an argument, however, is this:

1) Your ex-wife and her husband will claim (falsely, but there is no way for you to prove it) that the stepfather absolutely, positively does not contribute to the financial support of his stepchildren, so without you paying child support the children would be destitute during the periods when the ex-wife and kids are living with her new husband. So unless you had proof that the stepfather was voluntarily taking care of the children financially and/or that the child support money you were paying to your ex-wife was not being spent on the support of your children, you’d have a hard time with this issue.

2) it could and likely would be argued (correctly) that stepparents have no legal obligation to support stepchildren, even indirectly. By arguing for a reduction in your child support obligation you are conceding that you are asking the court to make the stepfather responsible for your children’s support, and that tends to make you look like a deadbeat.

So your thought of seeking not a complete termination of child support, but a reduction may be your most likely path to success, if there is any hope of successfully reducing your child support obligation to begin with.

Thanks for your question. It’s a good question.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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