A new spouse’s income will not be considered for the purposes of calculating child support pursuant to the Child Support Guidelines. While a step parent may decide that he or she would like to contribute towards the support of his/her step-child, there is no legal obligation to do so. By way of example: Jane has an obligation to pay child support and has an income of $50,000. Jane is remarried and her spouse has an income of $50,000. For the purposes of calculating child support, the Court will use only Jane’s income of $50,000, not the combined marital income of $100,000. The reason for this is because as set forth above, Jane’s new spouse does not have a legal obligation to support her children from a previous relationship. For many recipients of child support, this is disheartening news. Many ask why Jane should have the benefit of her new spouse’s income without having to share that benefit with her children? What if Jane’s new Husband earns $500,000 a year, instead of $50,000 and as a result Jane does not pay a penny towards her own expenses? Shouldn’t she then have a higher child support obligation, since she has more disposable income?
When calculating child support using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, it is important to note that the Guidelines specifically exclude from consideration of a parent’s gross income, “income from other household members” including a current spouse who is “not legally responsible for the support of the child for whom support is being established.” Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-B, pp.2031-32. New Jersey precedent dictates that a current spouse has no obligation to support a step-child, despite the fact that the current spouse may provide economic resources to the household.
In the alternative, a remarried parent may wonder whether his/her remarriage is grounds to recalculate child support. What happens if the child support payor remarries a spouse with ZERO income? Now the payor has an obligation to support the child and the new spouse. New Jersey courts will not consider remarriage in and of itself to be a reason to modify child support. However, if a child is born of the new marriage, the payor may seek a reduction in child support based upon the fact that he or she is now supporting a new dependent. It is important to note, however, that in order to take advantage of this deduction the new spouse’s income must be revealed.
Because child support is not always a black or white issue, despite the existence of the Child Support Guidelines, it is important to consult with an experienced family law practitioner relative to child support obligations. Posted by Robyn E. Ross, Esq.