The prospect of remarriage brings with it important considerations for those who have child support or alimony obligations arising out of the previous marriage. Most importantly, the question that comes to many is how the new family financial dynamic can impact child support and alimony awards that were put in place as part of a prior divorce action.
The fairness of child support and alimony awards certainly becomes an issue once new family obligations and perhaps new children become part of the equation, but another factor for consideration is whether the new spouse’s income can be taken into consideration when determining whether modifications can be made to the prior Court Orders. The obligations of a second family do not act to reduce the obligations of the supporting spouse. However, there are three common scenarios when the finances of the new spouse will be relevant:
- Motions for modification of alimony filed by the supporting spouse who has since remarried.
- Motions to modify child support.
- Motions to establish obligations to pay college expenses.
An alimony modification application generally arises when a client receives alimony stemming from his or her divorce and is served with a Motion filed by the supporting spouse to reduce the alimony obligation. The supporting spouse will as part of their Motion assert there is a change in his or her circumstances and that the supporting spouse has since remarried in an effort to reduce or stop their alimony obligation. Alternatively, when a custodial parent remarries, it is presumed that his or her new spouse will contribute income to the household where the custodial parent’s child (born of the prior marriage) resides. A remarriage can improve the custodial parent’s financial circumstances because of his or her new spouse’s financial resources.
By pooling financial resources with their new spouse, the remarried parent exposes himself or herself to making a larger contribution to his or her child’s college education than might otherwise be the case. To the extent the new spouse frees up cash flow of the parent or ex-spouse by contributing to expenses that would otherwise be covered by child support, the new spouse’s income and assets are relevant and discoverable – meaning that an attorney can request income verification of the new spouse. Although the current spouse’s income is not to be included in calculating the parent’s income, at least one court in New Jersey has held that the current spouse’s income is still relevant in determination of the ‘financial resources of a parent’ and that information can impact an obligation to pay college expenses.