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Child Support Bullet Guide (Part 6): New Significant Others and Stepparents

Child Support Divorce cases and relationship break ups are always tougher when children are involved. Tensions are often running higher as parents need to figure out how to separate their lives without having a negative impact on the children. At the same time, there are various additional issues that need to be considered during the legal case, such as child support orders, and custody requirements.

As a divorce mediator, family law and child support attorney in Long Island and New York, Darren Shapiro has had various opportunities to assist families in pursuing their best interests in court. This guide of child support insights aims to support parents considering a divorce who may have worries about the problems that can arise when seeking child support.

This particular section of the guide covers the stepparents of children in a child support case, and the impact that new significant others can have.

Child Support and Stepparents

These days, it's common for many children throughout the United States to live with a parent and a stepparent. Just like any guardian, a stepparent may need to know what their responsibilities and rights are when it comes to caring for stepchildren. Many stepparents will assist in caring for a child on an emotional and financial level. However, stepparents aren't automatically given the same parental authority as biological parents. So, what does this mean to child support?

  • Shapiro has seen stepparents be asked to pay child support after they marry the parent responsible for a child. This often happens when those children are at risk of being defined as a public charge. This often pushes parties into finalizing a divorce as quickly as possible. Most stepparents won't be obligated to pay child support for a spouse's children, aside from in the public charge situation, or in the case of an adoption.
  • Equitable estoppel may also cause stepparents to become responsible for certain expenses. This is a legal concept applied by the courts when a parent holds the child in question to be their own, regardless of DNA or biological relationships. Courts will only apply equitable estoppel to a case when it's deemed to be in the best interests of the child. The doctrine can sometimes support parents or stepparents who want to be a part of a child's life from stepping back from their obligations.
  • Stepparents keen to be involved in a child's life legally can sometimes request guardianship with consent from the correct parties. Guardians can be anyone who cares for a child's best interest. Additionally, stepparent adoption is sometimes a way for stepparents to gain the full parental rights that a parent has over a child. Testamentary guardianship can also be provided for a stepparent, or the court can assign a standby guardian if a parent has a fatal disease.
Child Support and the Girlfriend or Boyfriend

Mr. Shapiro has frequently received various inquiries from parents wondering what their obligations might be for child support when a new significant other arrives in a person's life. Like with issues of child custody, there are various reasons that a new significant other or relationship can affect the way that people feel about child support. It's common, for instance, for parents to worry that funds available to care for a new set of children and the new family created by the boyfriend or girlfriend will be lowered by the demand of a child support order. Couples may ask for support orders to be reconsidered when they have new expenses to pay for that affect their income.

  • A significant other may want more resources to be dedicated to them, the new relationship, and any children involved in that new relationship. However, the courts in New York will only consider modifying an order when a significant change of circumstances has happened, or if 3 or more years have passed, or income has changed by more than 15%.
  • The demands of other children of a non-custodial parent may be a reason for the courts to deviate from or reconsider child support guidelines. Mr. Shapiro notes that this only happens within certain circumstances, however. If the financial resources that are available for the children of a household are lower than the resources available to another child receiving child support, this could be a cause for deviation.
  • Shapiro frequently sees requests for modifications of child support when a new boyfriend or girlfriend arrives in a child's life. This request won't always be considered seriously by the courts, unless there is evidence that a significant change in circumstances has occurred, which would indicate that the old payments aren't suitable anymore.
  • In rare cases, the addition of a new significant other could be considered as a source of additional income. If someone has previously is considered under-employed by the courts, or their account of finances isn't entirely credible, the income of a significant other may then apply to the consideration of how much a specific parent can pay. This is called imputation of income (this is only one example of imputation of income).
  • Some parents will ask for an increase in child support payments when another parent begins a new relationship. Although there's a chance that this request may be addressed, the start of a new relationship alone isn't significant enough to cause a modification in all cases.

If you have any concerns or questions about the topics discussed in this guide, please connect with Mr. Shapiro's office at your leisure to discuss arranging a free initial consultation which can last up to 30 minutes. You can contact Mr. Shapiro's via his contact form, or over the phone at (516) 333-6555 to arrange a time to get on our calendar for your consultation.

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