September 16, 2021

Alimony, Child Support and Remarriage: What You Should Know.

Divorced people move on with their lives.  They remarry and often have children with the new spouse.  What is the impact on the alimony and child support orders?  Not necessarily what you might expect.

Alimony automatically ceases when the spouse receiving alimony remarries, almost without exception.  On the other hand, the remarriage of the payor spouse doesn’t end the alimony obligation. 

Financial or lifestyle changes associated with the payor spouse’s remarriage rarely affect the alimony amount. For example, the remarriage may result in an increase in the payor’s expenses that makes the alimony payments more burdensome. The payor will be disappointed to learn that is almost never a reason for a reduction. It also could reduce those expenses and, because of the financial condition of the new spouse, give the payor a better lifestyle.  The recipient will be disappointed to learn that alone is almost never a reason for an increase.  To get a change in alimony (up or down) one must prove a substantial change in circumstances since the divorce that justifies a change based on certain specific alimony criteria set forth in the statutes.  Remarriage alone doesn’t do it.

Child support is calculated based on the income of the parents and the number of children of the marriage.  Except for specific limited expenses, such as income taxes and health insurance, expenses are not considered. So increased expenses to support the payor parent’s new family won’t result in a reduction. The income of a new spouse for either the payor or recipient parent isn’t a basis for changing child support. 

Criteria allow deviations from these child support guidelines but they are limited. For example, one allows consideration of a parent’s earning capacity rather than actual income.  A recipient parent who quits a job to be supported by their new spouse shouldn’t expect an increase in child support. 

It may seem unfair that the recipient parent who remarries, enjoys a better lifestyle and doesn’t need as much for children’s expenses still receives the same amount.  Or that the payor parent who remarries and enjoys a better lifestyle doesn’t pay more. But that is how the law works.  One reason for these results is that the law considers “the family” to include only the parents and the children they had together. 

Except perhaps to an alimony recipient, the effect on alimony and child support won’t drive a decision to remarry. But an understanding of how remarriage could affect those rights and obligations will help you plan and avoid surprises.

This article was first published in the September 9, 2021 edition of The Cheshire Citizen.

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