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Child Support Bullets Part 10: Claiming a Child as a Dependent, and Remarriages

Kitchenfeeding-300x200Welcome back to this bullet point guide series on child support.

If you’ve been reading through these quick articles on my blog, you’ll know that I’m curating information from the articles elsewhere on my blog from over the years, to provide an easy way to find answers to your child support and family law questions.

In this guide on child support so far, we’ve covered a wide number of issues, ranging from when it’s appropriate to expect to pay support beyond the guideline limits in New York, and what it means to apply equitable estoppel in paternity cases to prevent a DNA test.

In this section, we’ll be looking at the complexities of deciding which parent should have the right to claim a child as a dependent in a child support case. We’ll also address remarriages, and the impact they might have on a child support order.

Claiming a Child as a Dependent

There are many complicated issues to consider when a marriage comes to an end, particularly when the previous partnership involved children.  I always preface information about taxes by saying for tax advice please consult with your tax professionals, like a tax attorney (which I am not, I am a child support, divorce, and child custody lawyer), or your CPA. When it comes to tax returns at the end of the financial year, I often find that more people begin to worry about the tax implications that they may need to handle as a divorced parent.

  • A common issue which can often arise in family law and divorce cases, involves which parent should be able to claim for a child as a dependent to reduce their tax costs. Claiming a dependant on tax returns can reduce your expenses. However, only one person is generally able to claim a child on a tax return in any specific year.
  • Sometimes, custodial parents can waive the right to claim certain child deductions. Although the custodial parent may still retain the filing status of head of household, the various credits mentioned above can be given to the non-custodial parent instead.
  • According to the IRS, if the parties involved in a divorce case have multiple children, they can make the decision together on how they would like to split the credits available between them. If a decision cannot be reached, sometimes this determination can be made within the context of the child support order in a divorce case in Supreme Court. Often times a Support Magistrate in family court will decline to decide the issue in their support order, however.
  • When the court is asked to determine which parent can claim a child as a dependent, the common rule is that the custodial parent claims the child. However, there are situations where this may not be the case. The easiest way for a non-custodial parent to request the option to claim is by agreeing this with the other spouse. This agreement can be outlined in a divorce decree or separation agreement to prevent further issues in the future.
  • In situations without a written declaration determining that a non-custodial parent has rights to claim a child, there are some tie-breaker rules in place. These suggest that children can be claimed by the parent who has looked over the child for the longest (with the child living in the same home) throughout the year. In the case that a child lived with both parents equally, the parent with the higher income will usually claim the child (but this is not a hard and fast rule). If the parties are able to work out an agreement where the child lives with them equally then there is hope that the parties can come to an agreement about claiming the children in a way that will maximize the finances of the two and minimize the tax payments between the two.

What Happens to Child Support when Parents Remarry?

When a marriage comes to an end in New York, there’s always a chance that the two parties involved might fall in love and decide to get married again. Although this is a wonderful thing for the individual involved, it can sometimes raise questions about things like child and spousal support, and how it should be paid to previous spouses.

  • The New York Family court act requires the family court of New York to consider various factors when determining the amount of child support to deliver to a custodial parent. The formula can include things like the income of each parent, and the unique expenses that might be required to look after a specific child (particularly when dealing with combined income over the initial cap, at the time of this blog $154K, and in deviations from the formula). Courts can make changes to the amount of support ordered from a non-custodial parent when a significant change in circumstances
  • When a parent remarries to another person, a question often arises about whether the income of the new spouse should be considered for the amount of child support owed. The general rule is that stepparents don’t have obligations to support stepchildren. However, there are cases wherein the courts may decide to make a stepparent’s income relevant to child support determinations.
  • For instance, if the new spouse and the parent of the child in question have a new child, and the household resources available to support the new child is less than the resources available to support the older child, this could be a reason to deviate from the guidelines.
  • As in all cases of divorce involving children, the courts will always consider the best interests of the children subject to the child support order.
  • Courts can sometimes impute income to a party in cases of child support, which means that they add additional income to them to help with a support calculation. Imputation of income can usually happen when the account someone gives of their own finances isn’t entirely credible. The court will need to enumerate where the additional income was taken from.
  • Courts will not consider the new income of a spouse in all cases involving children and child support. The bottom line is that courts have the ability to consider this income but won’t necessarily do so in all cases. If someone’s account of their finances is not credible, such as they are leading a certain lifestyle but claim to have no income themselves, imputation by considering the income of the spouse might come into play in such a situation. The issue of child support when a party remarries can be complex.

If you have any questions about what you read above, you can find further guidance and support in the articles on this website. I’m also available to answer your questions and discuss your potential case as part of an initial consultation, up to the first thirty-minutes is free. You can contact my office to schedule using my online form to arrange your consultation or call the office to schedule a time at 516-333-6555.

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