It is a common scenario in my office. Client, who has children from a previous marriage, and his fiancé come in to “just cover their bases.” The fiancé is very concerned that Client’s ex-wife will, in an effort to thwart their wedded bliss, file a motion to modify child support as soon as they tie the knot. Client is looking to me to reassure his fiancé that she and her income will not be dragged into any legal hassles with his ex.
What I tell them is this: It depends. A new spouse’s income is not directly relevant for the court’s consideration in determining or modifying a child support order. It is, however, indirectly relevant. If a new spouse contributes to the payment of household expenses in such a way that increases the standard of living of the parent paying support, the court may deviate upwards from the statutory calculation. Likewise, if the person receiving child support has remarried, and if a new spouse contributes in such a way that increases the standard of living of the parent receiving child support, the court may deviate downwards from the statutory calculation. Since each married person has a community property interest in his or her spouse’s income, the court may at least consider the new spouse’s income in determining whether the statutory child support is inadequate or unfair.
The current law in Nevada supports the position that a stepparent should not be legally obligated to financially support a stepchild in the other parent’s home. The Nevada Supreme Court has specifically held that “gross monthly income” does not directly include a parent’s community property interest in a new spouse’s income. The court has, however, discretion when determining whether the child support obligation will be deviated upwards or downwards based on the relative income available to each of the parties. The Nevada Supreme Court has been clear that what really matters is whether the children are being taken care of as well as possible under the parent’s financial circumstances, which may include consideration of a new spouse’s income.
Jessica H. Anderson
Reno Family Law Attorney