Remarriage and Child Custody Rights

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 What Legal Issues are Involved with Remarriage and Child Custody Rights?

New relationships after a legal separation or a divorce can mean big changes, not just for you but also for your children. The changes in relationships and the new family dynamic can be positive if you are adding a loving stepparent and a more stable environment for your child. However, along with the big changes, you should be prepared for the possibility of a modification of your current child custody order.

After remarriage, the circumstances might change in such a way that the custody arrangement no longer serves the child’s best interests. In these cases, the court may decide to modify the existing child custody order to incorporate the changes that have happened with the new marriage.

What Happens if the Custodial Parent Remarries?

When the custodial parent remarries, the main concern is how the child interacts with their stepmother or stepfather. In some cases, the new relationship can cause difficulties for the children from the prior marriage–which can spill over into other areas, like behavioral issues or problems at school. If this is the case, then it may be beneficial for the parents to re-evaluate their existing child custody agreement. 

If the custodial parent remarries, then the new circumstances may also affect how child support payments are distributed. If the new spouse is in a position to contribute financially to raising the child, then this may necessitate a revision of the existing child support agreement, as well.

What Happens if the Non-Custodial Parent Remarries?

When the non-custodial parent remarries, the new life circumstances can actually be seen as positive and have favorable effects in terms of custody and visitation. Courts often view remarriage as creating a more stable household and a more stable environment for the child than if the parent were single. 

Of course, the child’s needs are the most important thing for the court to consider, but remarriage for the non-custodial parent can also translate to a revised custodial schedule and more visitation time.

What Will the Court Consider When Evaluating the Child Custody Arrangement?

Generally speaking, child custody and visitation orders are created with the “child’s best interests” in mind. However, a parent can seek to have a custody agreement modified if there has been a material change in circumstances that makes the change necessary. A “material change” can be defined as a major and permanent change that affects the child’s well-being. 

Often, these material changes involve a parent’s relocation (sometimes across the state or across the country) or a child’s recent medical diagnosis. However, a parent’s remarriage can also be a material change in circumstances, and a court may decide to modify the existing custody order based upon the change in the family dynamic.

It is important to keep in mind that when evaluating child custody and child support agreements, the court’s main aim is to do what is in the best interests of the child. The parents’ best interests are not at stake here, only the child’s. 

If the child is having difficulty adapting to the new family member or the child’s needs are no longer being met as a result of the parent’s remarriage and the advent of a new stepparent, then the court may decide that a change to the child custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.

What About Re-Considering Child Support Payments After Remarriage?

When it comes to child support, remarriage may affect how those payments are divided. Since child support is intended to help provide for the reasonable expenses of raising the child (and not as a benefit or punishment to either parent), a remarriage by either party can certainly affect how the parents are able to meet the needs of the child. 

Usually, a modification of child support payments requires the parent to show a “change in circumstances,” and a remarriage by either parent can be a change in circumstances sufficient to support that modification. 

If a custodial parent’s new spouse is able to contribute extra financial assistance to help provide for the child, then the non-custodial parent’s child support obligations may be reduced accordingly. Just as in child custody cases, the court will consider the best interests of the child in order to make its decision.

However, the new spouse is not obligated to pay for the child’s care, like paying for music lessons or paying for the child’s private school tuition. But the new spouse can contribute in the sense that they own the home where the child will live, which will lower the amount required for afford the child’s housing costs. 

Should I Talk to a Lawyer About Remarriage and Child Custody Rights?

If you are getting remarried, or considering getting remarried after a divorce or legal separation, this new family dynamic will directly affect both you and your children. It is in your best interests (and really the best interests of the child, as well) to talk to a qualified child custody lawyer before you make any permanent changes to your circumstances. 

The right lawyer can explain how custody laws in your area will affect your rights as a parent and how a change in your family relationships can affect your existing child custody arrangement. 

Your lawyer can also help you navigate the legal system if there are court proceedings to revisit the child custody arrangement, and can represent you during court hearings to help get the best possible outcome for you and your family.

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