After a California couple has divorced and there is a child support agreement, there are often questions as to when it can be modified and what circumstances are necessary to do so. The supporting parent and the parent who has custody and receives support will frequently start a new relationship with different individuals that result in marriage. Under the law, this is referred to as a "subsequent spouse." Understanding how the child support guidelines address a subsequent spouse in the context of what is paid and if the agreement can be modified is important for both sides.
When the paying parent (the obligor) has a subsequent spouse, that subsequent spouse's income will not be factored in when the child support is determined or modified except in cases where the circumstances are deemed extraordinary and the exclusion would result in severe and extreme hardship to the child. The court will gauge whether the inclusion of that income would result in severe and extreme hardship to the child the obligor supports or those supported by the subsequent spouse. The receiving parent (the obligee) is in the same situation when deciding whether the income should be counted.
An extraordinary circumstance may arise in a number of circumstances. For example, such circumstances may be found if a parent quits a job on purpose for no reason other than to lower their income. Extraordinary circumstances may also be found when a parent is unemployed or underemployed and maintains they rely on the income of the subsequent spouse. When these circumstances are assessed, there will be discovery using the parents' and the subsequent spouses' income tax records. When the parents' income or the income of the subsequent spouses are used to determine child support, the court can grant a hardship deduction. This will be based on the amount that is deemed the minimum living expenses for one or more stepchildren.
Parents who are obligated to pay child support and parents who have custody of a child and receive child support should be cognizant of the child support guidelines and how a new spouse will impact what is to be paid. The financial needs of the child are paramount, but that does not imply that there will not be a child support dispute in various situations. Understanding child support and how income and life changes will determine if there should be a modification is key. Help from a law firm that deals with all areas of family law from divorce to modifications and child custody and support is imperative.