How Courts in Oregon Determine Child Support After Remarriage

Let's Untie the Knot | How Courts in Oregon Determine Child Support After Remarriage

Approximately half of all Americans remarry after a divorce.  Remarriage is cause for celebration.  You may have felt hopeless after your divorce and you are over the moon with excitement that you have a second chance at true love.  But if you are in Oregon and have a child support order, your new marriage may have implications for how much child support you can receive. 

Courts in Oregon rely on state-established guidelines to determine the amount of child support.  Since child support is the responsibility of both parents, courts use both parents’ income to determine a final support figure.  That figure includes gross income and earnings from any source.  Some sources of income include:

  • Employment-related income including salaries, wages, bonuses, commissions, pensions and recurring overtime pay.
  • Income from self-employment, rent, royalties, proprietorship of a business or joint ownership of a partnership or closely held corporation.
  • Income replacement benefit payments including Social Security benefits, workers compensation, unemployment insurance and disability insurance.

In addition, if a court finds that a parent has the ability to work but is opting not to do so, the court can imput income to that parents.  If the court decides to imput income it will consider the relevant work history, education or other occupational qualifications, employment potential in terms of prevailing job opportunities and physical and mental health.

It is difficult to modify a child support order once it has been issued.  The party seeking the modification order must apply to the court and demonstrate a substantial change in economic circumstances.   Most often a change in circumstances represents the loss of a job but there are other cases like the birth of a new child or becoming a caretaker for an ill parent.  In these cases, the court may alter payment.  Under certain circumstances, remarriage can also impact child support.

Normally, remarriage isn’t a sufficient reason to modify child support.  At its core, the law directs that the child birth’s parents are responsible for child support and no one else.  Oregon law, however, implies that a stepparent may have at least some responsibility in this area. 

  1. A new child from a remarriage may impact child support:  Under the previous law, a new child didn’t have an impact on an existing child support order.  This thinking, however, has fallen out of favor recently.  The current Oregon support guidelines provide that in determining support, a parent is entitled to an income deduction for a child who the support order does not apply to.  In addition, in determining child support, another criteria is “the number and needs of other dependents of a parent.”  A child from a subsequent marriage would undoubtedly fall into this category.  It is crucial that the presence of a new child is something the court can consider in modifying support.  It does not in and of itself require a modification.

  1. A new spouse’s income may be relevant: For the purposes of our discussion lets say that Jill and Bob are married.  They get divorce.  Jill is the custodial parent and Bob pays child support.  Three years later Jill gets remarried to Todd.  Although Todd’s income isn’t included in the child support guidelines in Oregon, it does impact child support because Todd’s income gives a financial advantage to Jill’s household.  For instance, Todd’s income could free up a portion of the household expenses, including rent, mortgage, utilities or even groceries.  As a result, Todd is freeing up some of Jill’s individual income for child support.  In this case Bob could petition the court to change his child custody payments.

Although Oregon will consider a narrow set of factors, as a general rule, a party’s remarriage will not impact child support payments.   If the non-custodial parent wants to modify the court’s determination of child support he or she must demonstrate that there have been substantial change in economic circumstances.

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