Remarriage and Child Support in Utah
Your decision to enter a new marriage should have little impact on your child support arrangements with your former spouse. The documents you created and signed during your split remain valid and enforceable until your child ages or you make new agreements with your ex.
As with most legal issues, exceptions exist. If your new marriage changes your financial health in specific and provable ways, you could ask the court to adjust payment amounts.
But in general, you can say “I do” to someone new without impacting your child support agreements.
Utah child support basics
Parents are required to provide financial support until their children are 18, complete high school, or move through emancipation. Your obligations to your children don’t end when your marriage does. Child support payments ensure that both parties are meaningfully engaged in caring for the children they share.
Here’s what you need to know about how Utah determines and administers child support.
What is child support in Utah?
Divorces mean shifting households. Your children may live with one or both parents, but the group rarely exists under the same roof. Child support offers a firm financial foundation for youth, regardless of where they live.
Typically, a parent who doesn’t live with their child offers payments to the other parent to cover that child’s expenses. That money must be used for things like clothing, food, healthcare, and other expenses involved with parenting a small person. The recipient can’t use the funds for their personal gain.
How is child support calculated?
Two factors determine how much you’ll pay (or get) via child support: income and overnights.
Income from employment, investments, and other streams (like gifts) of both parties apply when determining child support obligations. As part of your divorce process, you’ll offer the courts detailed information about your financial health.
Overnights are a measurement of how often the child sleeps in one person’s home. It’s a crude snapshot of a custody arrangement, allowing the court to understand how much one person must pay to create and maintain a regular home for the child.
An online child support calculator maintained by the Utah Department of Human Services can give you an approximation of your child support obligations. But know that the court could force one person to pay more or less than this tool suggests.
What role do judges play?
Utah judges adjudicate divorces. They examine all the divorce paperwork and worksheets you create as you navigate your split. And they must review and approve any arrangements you make before declaring your divorce final.
Your judge may look at your Child Support Calculator results and approve the payment listed there. Or, they may decide the amount is too low or high based on details revealed in other documents or during your court case.
A judge’s ruling is final. If you’re the payor, you must start paying the amount immediately. But you can ask for a modification later if your financial situation changes dramatically.
Does remarriage impact child support in Utah?
A new marriage can change almost everything about your life, including your financial health. But it’s rare for remarriages to change child support obligations in Utah.
Your parental obligations are independent of your marital status. Per Utah law, you’re legally required to support your child until they grow into an adult. Whether you’re married to your child’s other parent or someone new, your parental status remains the same.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, your new spouse could give you money to invest in your business or start a new one. This gift could be considered unearned income, which could change how much you owe (or get) in child support.
But in general, a new marriage doesn’t sever a person’s financial obligations to their children. The amount the court ordered during your divorce will likely stay on the budget books in your new household.
Will the court consider your new spouse’s income?
Your new spouse likely has a job, investment income, or some other revenue stream that can help you make ends meet. Sometimes, people are in better financial health after a new marriage. And sometimes, the opposite is true. This rarely matters in terms of child support payments.
The same two main data points – income and overnights – factor into Utah’s child support calculator, and these don’t change with remarriage. Your budget may be bigger or stretched more thin due to a new marriage. But your job and the time your children spend with you don’t change automatically when you remarry.
Once again, exceptions exist. The court might consider your new spouse’s income due to the following factors:
- Poverty: If you can’t cover basic expenses due to financial obligations involved with your new marriage, your child support payments may change.
- Cost of living: If your new marriage means you must live somewhere new, the court might examine your spouse’s income to determine how that impacts your ability to pay child support.
- Job loss: If you quit your job because of your new marriage, the court might examine your spouse’s income to make sure you can still cover your childcare payments. For example, if your new partner wants you to stay home with the children, that decision shouldn’t reduce how much your former partner gets in child support.
Noncustodial parent and child support
In traditional divorces, one person keeps a full-time household for the children while the other operates guest quarters. The party with the residence the child calls home most of the time is the custodial parent. The other is a noncustodial parent.
This terminology matters, as the noncustodial parent is typically the party paying (not receiving) child support. But what happens if the payor enters a new marriage and has additional children?
Adding new children typically doesn’t reduce your obligation to those you already have. Courts assume you understand your responsibilities and won’t try to shirk them by growing your new family.
But there are exceptions. You can ask for a child support modification based on new legal responsibilities to support other people. That tiny bit of language could help you reduce your payments to your ex so you can also focus on your new family.
Your judge has the final say in child support arrangements. They may not allow you to pay less. Or, they may recognize your changing status and allow you to alter payments accordingly.
How can you modify child support in Utah?
You can modify your child support payments with one of two available tools. Be prepared to demonstrate a significant and long-lasting financial change that prompts your request. No matter what option you choose, the judge will want proof that you’re asking for changed fees in good faith.
The two options include the following:
- Motion to adjust: If it’s been three years since your last child support order and you qualify for a payment that’s 10% lower or higher than the current version, you could file a motion to adjust.
- Petition to modify: If it’s been three years and there’s a 10% difference, you can file a petition. If it’s been less than three years, there must be a 15% difference between the current order and what you qualify for now.
To be successful, you must offer proof of a substantial change in one of the following categories:
- How often you have custody of the child
- The income of either parent
- The employment potential of either parent
- The medical needs of the child
- Legal responsibilities of either party to support others
- The availability or cost of healthcare coverage
- Child-related expenses
- The legal status of the child
Judges typically rule on motions and petitions. Provide the right paperwork with enough compelling evidence, and your child support payments could change.
ReferencesChild Support. Utah State Courts.
Office of Recovery Services Child Support Calculator. Utah Department of Human Services.
Modifying Child Support. Utah State Courts.