Alabama takes child support seriously. There is a clear expectation that both legal parents of a child contribute to that child’s upbringing. That’s why the basic calculation method used in this state requires both parents’ income. Even if one parent brings in a significantly lower income than the other, their earnings are still considered part of the child’s financial support.
A New Spouse Cannot Be Forced to Support a Stepchild
On that note, this obligation only extends to a person’s legal children. A stepparent does not have any legal obligation to provide financial support for a stepchild. As a result, their income cannot be used to figure out how much a biological parent owes. In the eyes of the state, the financial obligations of parenthood belong solely to the legal parents.
Of course, this does not stop the stepparent from willingly providing financial support to their stepchildren. In cases where a remarried biological parent is required to pay child support, the stepparent can pay that child support on their behalf. They can also provide additional support above and beyond what the child already receives from their biological parents.
Remarriage On Its Own Does Not Change Child Support
Since stepparents are not legally required to support their stepchildren, remarriage does not automatically change how child support is calculated or distributed. For example, if the custodial parent remarries someone with a high income, that doesn’t mean the other parent’s child support payments will decrease—the new partner’s income is not part of the child support calculations. The same is true for the non-custodial parent. If they remarry, that partner’s income does not count in child support calculations.
Support May Be Modified If Circumstances Have Changed
While remarriage does not directly or automatically lead to changes in child support, it can still indirectly lead to a child support modification. This is primarily the case when one partner’s remarriage leads to a significant change in circumstances.
Consider, for example, a custodial parent who remarries someone with a much higher income. Assume that this new spouse covers the majority or all of the parent’s expenses. If the custodial parent had little to no disposable income prior to the marriage, the court may not have expected them to contribute much to the child’s financial support. However, now that the custodial parent has more disposable income, the court may increase the amount of support they are expected to contribute.
Note, though, that this is not usually the case when the non-custodial parent remarries and incurs more monthly expenses. It’s common for a non-custodial parent to remarry and then expect a decrease in child support, as they now have a spouse and their spouse’s kids to provide for.
The court does not see this as a good reason to decrease their obligation to their legal child. In general, the court views this as the non-custodial parent willingly taking on more responsibilities, which means that they can’t expect the other parent to subsidize that choice.
Clearly, the topic of remarriage and child support is fairly complicated and dependent on the specifics of each scenario.
Explore Your Legal Options with the Team at Kirk Drennan Law
Wondering if you’re entitled to receive more or pay less child support? It’s time to talk to a Birmingham family law attorney and find out what you should do next. Schedule a consultation with our team of experienced attorneys now. Just call us at 205-953-1424 or fill out our contact form to have a team member connect with you.