Your child be may be approaching their 18th birthday and you may be wondering if your child qualifies for additional and ongoing child support. Generally, when you live in the state of California child support ends when your child turns 18, but there are exceptions. Child support can be extended under the following circumstances:
Child with Special Needs
Many times, additional financial support obligations are established with the original child support order when children have special needs. It can also be increased or decreased after the initial order through modified child support orders for various reasons. Depending on the needs of the child, the child support may be changed to reflect the current support needed for daily living support as well as the income of both parents. If you are facing this issue, consult with an attorney who can advise you on what your financial obligations are especially if you plan to receive financial aid from state and federal agencies.
Child Has Not Graduated from High School and is Under 19 Years of Age
If your child has not graduated from high school, they are still entitled to financial support from both parents. Of course, this does not work the other way around. If your child was under 18 years of age when he or she graduated from high school, they are still entitled to child support. In these circumstances, the payor cannot end child support just because your child has turned 18. Contact a CA family law attorney if you are not sure when to stop paying to avoid being found in contempt of a court order.
Marital Settlement Agreement Included a Child Support Extension
This is more common than many people think. The child support extension could be for financial support while the child attends college. It is important to fully understand what the marital settlement agreement specifies to make sure you and your child continue to receive support. As the payor, this is a legal agreement, and you need to comply or request a modification. If either party wants to change the agreement, they will need to petition the court and have strong and persuasive reasons to modify the marital settlement agreement. As this is a contract, it is difficult to change and usually requires the advice of a divorce attorney.
Child Support Arrears
In California, child support arrears can be collected after your child turns 18. It is important to understand that only the arrears will be subject to collection. If the other parent owes arrears, child support collection will continue until the outstanding balance is paid in full, regardless of the age of the child. Many payors have gotten themselves into trouble thinking that child support collection ends when the child turns 18. Payors who refuse to pay their arrears are subject to both civil and criminal penalties.
How to Petition the Court for an Extension for Child Support
If you have special circumstances and are seeking an extension or a modification of your child support, you need to file a petition in family law court. It is a good idea to start the process a few months before your child turns 18. The process can take several months, even with a cooperative parent. If the other parent has a history of being difficult, it can take longer to get a support order modified.
It is also important to understand that in most cases, the changes are not retroactive. This means that the judge will typically only order that changes be made effective to the date when you filed the petition to modify a child support order. This is another reason not to wait until the last minute. Contact an attorney who has experience handling special child support cases in the state of California. They can assist you with a consultation, handle filing the petition for modification, or representing you in court at a modification hearing.