Child Support and a Child of Another Relationship
A common issue that arises when calculating child support is when a party has a child from a different relationship and how that factors into a given child support award. Within this basic scenario, there are three general avenues to which child support would potentially be adjusted (this list is not exhaustive):
1. One party is the parent of primary or alternate residence of a child of another relationship and there is no separate child support order for that child.
In this scenario, the child support guidelines accounts for the other child by providing that party with a deduction called the ‘Other Dependent Deduction.’ The child support guidelines, Appendix IX-A, provides a mechanism to apportion a party’s income to all of his / her legal dependents. The theory behind the Other Dependent Deduction is that one child should not be financially disadvantaged by virtue of having a half-sibling from another relationship. When considering whether to use this adjustment, the Guidelines requires the income of the other parent of that child. If that other parent is not working or is underemployed, the Court is entitled to impute an income on that parent. The Court runs a theoretical guideline which accounts for the number of other children and the other parent’s income. This theoretical guideline amount is deducted from the party’s income in the current support calculation to account for the financial obligation towards that other child.
2. One party is the parent of alternate residence of a child of another relationship and there is a separate child support order for that child.
Here, the party has a child support obligation towards another child of a different relationship from the one at issue. This is the easiest of the three (3) scenarios to account for. Appendix IX-B of the Child Support Guidelines includes a Line (2c) for Child Support Orders for Other Dependents. So long as there is a Court Order for the other support payment, the Court in the case at issue should input a party’s weekly obligation(s) into this Line, which will reduce the weekly income being utilized to calculate the new support obligation.
3. One party is the parent of primary residence of a child of another relationship and there is a separate child support order for that child.
This last scenario is the most complicated and least addressed by the Court and the Guidelines of the three (3) scenario. Here, a party is the parent of primary residence of another child, but there also is a child support order in that other case, so the party is receiving child support from the third-party other parent. Appendix IX-B of the Child Support Guidelines explicitly indicates that child support received is excluded from gross income. However, if that party is entitled to receive the other dependent deduction for that child of another relationship without accounting for the child support received, it seems inequitable. While there does not seem to be any major case law on this issue, Appendix IX-A seems to define what to do here. Paragraph 10(a) states, in relevant part:
When considering the use of the [other dependent deduction] the following principles shall apply:
(1) where there is not an order requiring either parent to pay support for the other dependent, this adjustment sahllb e used only if the income, if any, of the other parent of the secondary family is provided to or ascertainable by the court;
(2) where there is not an order requiring either parent to pay support for the other dependent, if the other parent in the secondary family is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the court shall impute income to that person (see paragraph 12) to determine the serial family parent's obligation to the children in the secondary family....
The Appendix to the Child Support Guidelines, when addressing the other dependent deduction, assumes that there is no order requiring either parent of the other dependent to pay support. Therefore, in this scenario, if there is a support order, that party should generally not be permitted to take the other dependent deduction. Similarly, pursuant to the Appendix, that parent will also not have the child support award added to his/her income.