When couples with children divorce, they generally have a child support agreement. Usually, the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent to help with the children's expenses. What happens to this agreement when one of the parents (either the one paying or the one receiving child support) remarries?

Child support agreements aren't automatically modified when a parent remarries. If you feel that yours should be changed, you need to talk with your family law attorney to determine how best to make the case for a modification based on the circumstances and your state's laws.

If the Parent Paying Child Support Remarries

People often assume that if they remarry and their spouse works or has another source of income, they'll have to pay more child support for their children from the previous marriage because their combined household income will increase. However, your new spouse has no legal responsibility to provide financial support for children you have with someone else. Therefore, your co-parent can't ask for more child support on that basis.

If you and your new spouse have children of your own together, it's possible, but not likely, that you can reduce the support you pay for your children from your first marriage. Courts generally won't agree to cut support for some children because a parent has more children. However, if your new household expenses make it a challenge to maintain your current payments, you may want to seek a modification.

If the Parent Receiving Child Support Remarries

As noted, spouses have no legal obligation to support their husband's or wife's children from a previous marriage. Therefore, if the parent receiving support remarries, the paying parent won't likely be able to seek a modification simply because their co-parent remarried.

Sometimes, remarrying parents receiving child support are willing to let their exes "off the hook" for child support if their new husband or wife can provide for their children. However, many family law attorneys would caution parents against doing that.

You need to consider your kids' long-term needs. If you don't need child support for daily expenses, use it to build up your children's college funds. Further, you have no guarantee that your new marriage -- and your new spouse's support for your kids -- won't end.

Whatever you and your co-parent decide, with the advice of your attorneys, ensure that any changes are codified in a modified child support order. It's essential if you're the one paying support that you continue to make your full payments on time until and unless your child support order is modified by the court. Otherwise, you could face serious legal and financial penalties.