Step-Parents, Child Support, and Spousal Support – How Each One Affects the Other / by Cassandra Hearn

Step-Parents, Child Support, and Spousal Support – How Each One Affects the Other.jpg

At the conclusion of every divorce involving children, the judge will have to make a determination concerning child support. Child support is based on a variety of factors, including each parent’s net disposable income, number of children, health insurance costs, the custody arrangement, and several other issues. These numbers are put into a calculator which determines the amount of support pursuant to the California guidelines. Spousal support, by contrast, is determined based on a different set of factors, including such issues as the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during marriage, the paying party’s ability to pay, and the receiving parent’s need for spousal support. After the divorce is over, both parties will move on with their lives, and it is not unusual for one or both parties to remarry. Step-parents, child support, and spousal support can all interact in complicated ways.

There are very specific factors for calculating child support. A step-parent’s income is not one of those factors. This means that one parent’s remarriage will not automatically mean that the child support should be modified. This is made very clear in section 4057.5 . There is an important exception to this, however. If child support poses an extreme hardship to the paying parent to the extent the parties are not always able to provide for the child’s basic needs, but then the custodial parent’s new spouse has a substantial income, the court could decide to take the new spouse’s income into account. It is not likely, however, that the court will determine that there is an extreme enough hardship to overcome this presumption.

Spousal support also has very specific rules about the income of a new spouse. Family Code 4323(b)  provides that the income of a new spouse cannot be taken into account when calculating spousal support in terms of the paying spouse. In other words, if the paying spouse remarries, the receiving spouse cannot then use the combined income of the paying spouse and his or her new spouse in order to obtain an upward adjustment of spousal support. If the receiving spouse remarries, Family Code 4337  states that unless the parties have a prior agreement, spousal support will terminate. The provision does not have an exception for the amount of income made by the new spouse.

Understanding the ways new spouses, step-parents, and support all interact can be very complicated. Call us today at 619-800-0384 and let us talk with your support orders and obligations.