If you’re engaged to marry or seriously dating a person who has children from a previous marriage, you may be curious about their child support arrangement and how their obligations will come to affect your money when the two of you become one in the eyes of the law. Child support can be a delicate subject for couples who plan to marry. However, it’s likely a good idea to move beyond the awkwardness and have some open and honest conversations about your partner’s child support obligations before tying the knot as it is always advisable to have a thorough understanding of the situation that you are walking into. In addition to understanding the terms of your partner’s specific child support arrangement, here are five more things to know when marrying a partner who pays child support.
Many are often surprised to learn that child support payments — even when given voluntarily without the presence of a court order — are considered a debt by most lenders. Under most circumstances, this isn’t a big deal, but it’s something to keep in mind if you intend to take out a personal loan, mortgage, or auto loan together in the future. It can impact the terms and the amount of the loan you are granted.
While it is often assumed that child support obligations end when the child reaches age 18, this is not true for every state. In some states, child support obligations extend to age 19 and even 21 years if the child is enrolled in college. Further, in the instance where the child is mentally or physically disabled, parents may be responsible for providing for them into adulthood.
Child support arrangements are not limited to monetary contributions that are paid directly to the parent with primary custody. Parents who pay child support may also be responsible for partially or fully covering tuition, health insurance, medical bills, and fees associated with extracurricular activities depending on the terms of the arrangement.
Like many other expenses, child support is often not a fixed amount that stays the same forever. The rate is based on circumstances and the income of the child’s biological parents. If the income of the paying parent dramatically increases, their monthly obligation may increase. However, if the receiving parent receives a substantial raise, the payment amount may decrease.
Under normal circumstances, the income of a stepparent is not a factor in child support arrangements. However, as Legal Zoom explains, some states consider stepparents to also be financially responsible for their stepchildren. In the unfortunate event that the biological parent falls behind on child support after the couple marries, the stepparent’s income may be subject to garnishment. Further, if you and your future spouse file taxes together and they owe back child support, your tax refund may be reduced or withheld altogether.
Child support laws vary, sometimes dramatically from state to state. So in addition to being informed about your partner’s specific arrangement, it’s also a good idea to read up on the laws that govern your state.