By Rachel A. Brucks
Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
Child support is one of the most frequently asked about topics when it comes to divorce. Particularly in this economy, divorced dads want to know if they will have to pay more child support if their ex-wife or their ex's new husband is unemployed and needs to find supplemental income.
So if your ex-wife's husband loses his job, can she request more child support from you based on her new spouse's drop in income? Whose income is child support based off of anyway?
It is best to view child support as your contribution to the child’s portion of the shelter, utilities, food, clothing, and health expenses at your ex’s home, even if it is a small contribution to the child’s overall lifestyle. If your ex decides to provide your daughter with gifts and vacations above and beyond basic living conditions, it is in her prerogative to do so.
In most states, your child support obligation remains the same percentage of your income, regardless of whether or not your ex has an increase or decrease in her own lifestyle. Because your child support obligation is normally based off of your income, if your income has gone up significantly since the divorce, the Court may order you to pay additional child support.
Conversely, if your income has decreased significantly because of the economy, or if you have had additional children that you are obligated to support since the divorce, the Court may lower your child support obligation. The Court’s main concern is always the best interest of the child. However, so many judges heavily weigh whether or not lowering child support will negatively affect the child.
In Texas, where I practice, the custodial parent’s (usually your ex’s) income is rarely a factor when determining how much the child support obligor (you) should pay. Occasionally, if the custodial parent makes a substantial income (for example, over $500,000) and the obligor makes less than the poverty line (so therefore the support amount is putting a significant strain on the finances of the obligor) then the court may lower, but not do away with, the obligor’s child support obligation below the standard minimum.
Again, this is a very rare circumstance. Each state generally follows a minimum guideline or percentage amount that the obligor is required to pay in child support, regardless of the custodial parent’s income. The reason is because child support is used to support the child, not the ex spouse.
In situations where the custodial parent is married to a new spouse who has a significant income or a significant amount of resources, the courts in Texas and many states cannot take into account the new spouse’s income when determining the amount of child support.
The only incomes that can be taken into account are the incomes of the parents of the child. Similarly, if the obligor (you) remarries a wealthy spouse, the Court cannot take the obligor’s spouse’s income into account when setting child support either.
To get an estimate on how much child support you will have to pay, or should be paying, visit our child support calculator page. To calculate child support, click on the state where the litigation is taking place. A new window will open with the child support calculator.
Keep in mind that these numbers are only rough estimates and should not be considered as determinative in your case.
Rachel A. Brucks is a Staff Attorney in the Fort Worth, Texas office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Brucks is licensed in the state of Texas. Ms. Brucks received her Bachelors degrees in English and Political Science from the University of Texas at Arlington. She received her Masters in Literature and Gender Studies from Texas State University, San Marcos; and received her Juris Doctor from Southern Methodists University, Dallas.