Child Support – What Happens When Your Oldest Child Is No Longer Eligible?
When getting a divorce and discussing how much child support will be paid, the supporting parent may assume that when the first child is no longer eligible, their child support payment can be cut in half. That is not how the court looks at it, however.
First a little background – When is child support normally available for a child?
Child support is normally paid until a child is 18 years of age. A parent’s child support obligation may continue until the child is 19, however, if the child is unmarried and attending high school full time. Some parents choose to extend child support into their child’s college years to help their son or daughter with school expenses in their Divorce Settlement Agreement.
What happens when the oldest child is no longer eligible?
When a parent has more than one child, normally the court assumes that the second or third child will require (and should be eligible for) less support than a single child. For example, a parent who pays support for one child might pay $1000/month, but that same parent might pay $1500/month for two children. That’s because the court assumes that a second child or third child does not require the recipient parent to maintain a significantly larger home or have other major expenses.
When a couple’s oldest child is no longer eligible for child support, the support amount can be adjusted according to that assumption. Back to our example, the child support payment would be now be $1000/month, rather than $750 (half of what is currently paid).
A common pitfall that often befalls couples is that their Divorce Settlement Agreement is not modified as soon as the oldest child is no longer eligible for child support. That leaves the supporting parent paying more than he or she would have needed. Going back and trying to modify an agreement retroactively to retrieve payments already made is a legal slippery slope.
It is always best for both parents to be fully aware of the legal requirements of child support upfront, when the Divorce Settlement Agreement is negotiated. If circumstances should change where one parent may no longer be able to meet their financial obligations, the supporting parent can petition the court to modify the agreement.
If you are in the process of getting a divorce and want to discuss what you can expect to pay for child support, please contact our office for a consultation.
Attorney Christina Sherman is a Marin County CA family law attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, specializing in divorce, child custody and support, marital contracts and other family law issues.
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