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The Impact Of Additional Children On Previous Child Support Obligations


The image of the American family has changed drastically over the past thirty years, with more adults having children outside of marriage and with multiple partners, as well as blending families when new relationships form. This shifting dynamic does not alter, however, a parent’s ongoing obligation to provide financial support for every child until they reach adulthood. Further, most divorced and separated parents pay child support under the terms set out in a court order that determines how much a parent must pay based upon the number of children and amount he/she earns each month, plus several additional factors. This obligation does not change or end until a court authorizes a modification or termination of the award. Thus, having additional children does not mean earlier child support obligations are automatically, or even eligible to be, changed solely because a parent must now bear higher costs. MLB player Miguel Cabrera is in the middle of a court battle with his former mistress over child support for their two children, and the central claim by the woman is their children should have the same lifestyle as that which Cabrera has with his wife. The practical reality of having children with more than one partner is the likelihood of complications related to child support, and a discussion of the impact subsequent children have on earlier child support obligations will follow below.

When Do Later Children Matter

Having children is a choice for most parents, and should not serve as a reason to provide less support to earlier-born offspring. Consequently, the decision to have additional children when a standing child support obligation is in effect will not, in and of itself, have any bearing on the amount or duration of the support. In fact, the only time the existence of subsequent children matter is during consideration of an upward modification of an established support obligation. In these circumstances, the primary caregiver requests an increase in child support, usually following an increase in income by the payor parent. The payor parent then has the option of raising the issue of subsequent children for the purpose of asking the court to disregard additional income earned specifically to support the needs of the new children. The general rule is, though, subsequent children have no effect on obligations owed to earlier-born children.

How the Courts Look at the Issue

The law gives courts discretion to deviate from state child support guidelines in the interests of fairness, but the provision related to child support and subsequent children explicitly says that deviation from set guidelines should be a rare exception and not the general rule. Thus, absent extraordinary circumstances, courts will not factor additional children into any decision about child support. One exception that can motivate courts to diverge from this standard is later-born children with special needs who require highly specialized and expensive care which necessitate a greater financial and time commitment. Further, the income of the mother of subsequent children will become relevant if additional children are used to justify a deviation from the normal calculation. However, one crucial component of this analysis is the standard the petitioner must meet to obtain a modification in the first place. A substantial change in circumstances and the best interests of the child must be demonstrated to succeed in these requests, and one could argue that any increase in income was to account for subsequent children, and had the same effect as obtaining a second job to meet the support obligations.

Get Legal Advice

Child support obligations are commitments parents need to fulfill and take seriously. However, the amount ordered needs to be in keeping with what is reasonable under a person’s circumstances. If you are paying child support, and want to learn about modifying the current amount, speak with the knowledgeable attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. Our team has extensive experience in all areas of family law, and understands what is necessary to achieve your desired result. Contact us for a free consultation.



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