Child Support Modification with a step parent involved

My ex-husband has filed a Motion To Modify Child Support (lower) because our daughter turned 18 eight months ago - she is currently in college. I am remarried and quit my job to take better care of my son who has special needs and who lives with me. My ex-husband, who has shared custody, has his own business and is currently providing health insurance for our 2 children. However, he now wants my new husband to provide health care coverage for both our children. (1) Can the court force my current husband (stepfather) to provide health insurance for my children (his stepchildren)? (2) Since I have no income, can the court use my current husband’s income to establish a “family income” in the child support calculator? (3) If my income is imputed, can childcare costs also be imputed? I was paying $15,000/yr for child care. (4) If the child support document is modified to a lower amount, am I obligated to retroactively repay any over-payment from my ex-husband even though he waited 8 months to file the motion? (5) Since I am currently unemployed with no income, what financial documents am I required to provide to my ex-husband’s attorney - am I obligated to provide joint income tax forms?
Thank you very much.

1 & 2. There is no absolute duty in NC for a stepparent to provide support for a step child. So no, your new husband will not be forced to provide health insurance for your children. And no, the income of the step parent should not be a factor and should not be reflected in your child support calculations.

To understand the role of a step parent with regard to child support, see our article on child support and stepparents. As you may have noticed in that article, the most your former spouse could do would be to seek a deviation from the child support guidelines based on the support being provided by your new husband. This generally places a higher burden on your ex to prove the actual expenses of the child as well as how much contribution is being made by the step-parent.

  1. If you are staying home to care for a special needs child, a judge would most likely not impute income for you. In order for a judge to impute income, the court must find that the parent’s voluntary unemployment or underemployment is the result of a parent’s bad faith or deliberate suppression of income to avoid or minimize his or her child support obligation.

  2. There is no retroactive modification of child support. A modification would only take affect as of the date of when he filed the motion to modify.

  3. To learn about the discovery process, you should read through the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 26. Anything which is relevant to the subject matter of the action, or is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence is discoverable. In family law matters, generally all financial information is fair game (paystubs, tax returns, account statements, etc.).

Ms. Willis, thank you so much for your response! This is very helpful information. I do have 2 more questions. After our divorce, I did go back to night school and received a certification for a CPC (Medical Coder) and worked for 2 1/2 yrs prior to getting remarried. I knew this would not be the best scenario for my child but I had no choice because I hadn’t worked for 12 years and was doing the best I could to survive. However, because my son has special needs (epilepsy, developmental delay, ADHD) and couldn’t ride the bus or be cared for by a neighborhood teenager, I needed to hire a nanny which was very costly ($16,000/yr more than half my pay). I have no family here in this state to help watch my son while I was working. I quit work after remarrying because I wanted to give my child the attention he needed and deserved to succeed in school (he is already 5 years behind his peers) that he was not receiving with the nanny. Between the divorce and me getting a job, my son was falling further behind. My question is (1) will a judge look at my prior employment and my voluntary unemployment in order to better care for my son as acting in bad faith? And (2) if they want to impute my income, can’t I impute child care costs that I actually was paying when employed? Thank you.

Based on what you have shared, it seems unlikely that a judge would impute income in to you in this situation. On it’s face, staying home to take care of a special needs child would not rise to the level of you intentionally staying unememployed in bad faith. Everything you have explained would be evidence that would weigh in your favor. But I cannot speak to how any judge will rule after they have examined the facts on any given case.

If the judge does impute income, the new child support calculation will reflect your imputed income, as well as how much you will be paying in child care. Child care costs are considered in child support calculations.

Thank you again very much for your reply. This information has helped so much.