As California divorce lawyers, we’re often asked about how remarriage will affect child support and spousal support.

In most cases, remarriage will not impact child support payments. That’s because new spouses are not legally responsible for stepchildren—who are the responsibility of their parents.

A court will determine child support on the incomes of both parents, but this can cause concerns when a mother remarries someone who is wealthy. While a new spouse’s income may benefit a household and assist with the needs of his stepchildren, a new spouse isn’t legally obligated to financially support stepchildren. As a result, a court will not typically reduce child support under these circumstances because the children still remain the sole responsibility of their parents.

If the custodial parent’s new spouse adopts the minor children, though, the stepparent then becomes the legal guardian to the children and will be required to provide for them. The non-custodial parent is no longer responsible for providing regular support to the children. However, the non-custodial parent is still responsible for any arrears that accumulated before the adoption was finalized. Furthermore, the non-custodial parent relinquishes his legal guardianship over his or her children, which means he or she is no longer entitled to parenting time with the children.

The new spouse’s income may be taken into consideration under rare circumstances, but these rules vary for each state. In California, for example, family courts consider a new spouse’s income when determining child support payments, but only in rare circumstances—such as unemployment, underemployment, loss or reduction of income, and/or other reliance upon a new spouse’s income. For a court to consider a new spouse’s income, the parent must prove that the children would experience severe hardship without financial assistance from the new spouse.

What other factors may affect child support payments after remarriage?

If the new spouse’s own children move into the non-custodial parent’s house, however, the non-custodial parent’s child support payments may decrease due to having more children to support. Or, if a remarried non-custodial parent increases the amount of time he or she spends with his or her children, the amount of child support may also decrease. This typically occurs when the non-custodial parent moves away, and his or her children visit for longer periods of time due to the amount of travel involved.