In California, the California Family Code establishes the presumptive child support obligations for divorcing parents. Typically, California courts will not automatically recalculate a parent's child support obligation if he remarries. A new spouse's income does not usually have an effect on her spouse's existing child support obligations to his former spouse. However, in limited circumstances, California courts can require parents to pay additional support based on their spouses' incomes.
State laws establish the child support obligations each parent has after a separation or divorce. In California, the California Family Code requires courts to use the presumptive support guidelines to calculate a parent's monthly child support obligations. The California Child Support Guidelines require courts to calculate child support awards based on the respective earnings of each parent. Child support obligations continue until age 18, but they may continue until age 19 if a child is attending high school on a full-time basis.
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Child Support Guidelines
In most states, courts award child support based on state support guidelines. In California, the child support guidelines are presumptive awards, and courts must award at least the basic guideline amounts. Each parent's financial support obligation depends on the amount of time she spends with her minor children, the total income earned by parents, the number of children between parents and the medical and educational needs of her child. California courts have the discretion to order new child support awards when a parent shows there has been a change in circumstances. Furthermore, courts will change the amount of a parent's obligation if it would be in a child's best interests.
Modifying Child Support Awards
When a parent remarries, California law does not consider the remarriage alone as a basis to modify a parent's child support obligation. Section 4057.5(a)(1) of the California Family Code specifically states that a new spouse's income is not a legitimate reason to modify a parent's support obligation. As such, courts will not usually deviate from a previously ordered child support award to consider either parent's remarriage.
In other words, if the custodial parent remarries, California law does not allow the noncustodial parent to seek a downward deviation of his existing support obligation based on his former spouse's new marriage and extra income. A new spouse's earnings do not affect his existing obligation, and he remains independently liable for his existing obligation. Similarly, if a noncustodial parent remarries, the child's mother cannot seek an upward modification based on the new spouse's income.
Although California courts will not use remarriage alone as a factor for modifying an existing support award, remarriage may reduce a noncustodial parent's child support obligation if he has additional children with his new wife. In this case, the parent ordered to pay support would have the burden of proving to a court that judges should decrease his existing child support award based on his obligations to his new children.
- California Department of Child Support Services: Child Support Handbook
- California Administrative Office of the Courts: Review of Statewide Uniform Child Support Guideline 2010
- California Department of Child Support Services: Establishing a Child Support Order
- The State Bar of California: What Should I Know About Divorce and Custody?
- California Courts: Self-Help Center -- Child, Spousal & Partner Support Questions and Answers