State Bar of Arizona Certified Family Law Specialist
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How Is Child Support Affected By Re-Marriage or Cohabitation?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2016

How Is Child Support Affected By Re-Marriage or Cohabitation?

When a divorced parent enters into a second marriage or cohabitation arrangement, the question that often arises, as a result of the new arrangement, is whether or not the new spouse or cohabitant’s income is relevant for calculating a new child support amount.

The Arizona Child Support Guidelines address this situation as follows:
Section 5. F. Only income of persons having a legal duty of support shall be treated as income under the guidelines. For example, income of a parent’s new spouse is not treated as income of that parent.

However, that is not the end of the inquiry. Additionally, the definition of “gross income” in the Arizona Child Support Guidelines includes “recurring gifts”.

Legal Cases

There are two main cases in Arizona that deal with this issue. The first case is Cummings v. Cummings, 897 P.2d 685, 182 Ariz. 383 (Ariz.Div. 1, 1994). In Cummings, the Mother lived in a house owned by her parents and they made the monthly mortgage payment of $973.00 on Mother’s behalf every month. The Father asked that the court consider the mortgage payments as gifts to Mother and include the $973.00 as income to her. The court agreed with Father and included the $973.00 as part of Mother’s monthly income for purposes of calculating the child support.

The other case is In Re The Marriage Of Colleen Pacific, 815 P.2d 7, 168 Ariz. 460 (Ariz.App. 1991). In the case of In Re Pacific, both parents were remarried and the trial court attributed one-half of their new spouse’s income to each of the parents when determining their incomes for purposes of calculating the child support. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court erred, but indicated that the trial court “was entitled to consider the extent to which Father’s living expenses were defrayed by his wife’s income…”.

Although the Arizona Child Support Guidelines indicate that income of a parent’s new spouse should not be considered as income of that parent, that is not the end of the inquiry. As we learned from the court rulings in Cummings v. Cummings and In Re Pacific, the court can consider recurring gifts as income and the extent to which a new spouse’s income defrays the expenses of the parent.

These types of cases can be very fact intensive and involve a fair amount of discovery and investigation. Like most legal matters, it comes down to the evidence and what you can prove. If you are paying child support and the other parent is remarried or cohabitating, call Daniel J. Siegel, 602-274-1099, to discuss how that new relationship could affect your child support.

Daniel J. Siegel, is a Certified Specialist In Family Law by the State Bar of Arizona. For help with child support or any family law matter, call Daniel J. Siegel, 602-274-1099.

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