Family support refers to a court order for an unallocated total amount for the support of a spouse and child. There is no need to specifically label all or any portion of the amount as child support as long as the amount is adjusted to reflect the effect of additional deductibility.
The Statewide Uniform Guideline still applies in computing family support although it includes spousal support. A family support order is enforceable in the same manner and to the same extent as a child support order.
Duration of Obligation to Pay Child Support
Generally, the obligation to pay child support terminates the moment a child reaches 18 years old. However, there are several exceptions to this rule:
- If the child is 18 years old, unmarried, a full-time high school student and not supporting, the parent’s obligation to pay support continues until the time the child completes the 12th grade or reaches 19 years of age, whichever occurs first.
- Even if the child is already 19 years old or older, the duty to support can be extended if:
- A parent agrees to provide support beyond this time
- The child is incapacitated from earning a living and is without sufficient means, such as an adult child with special needs.
The court can use the Statewide Uniform Guideline to compute support for an adult child but is not required to adhere strictly to it. The court may depart from the guideline formula in this case as warranted by the circumstances. For example, the support amount may be reduced if the disabled adult child has some form of independent income.
Modification of Child Support Order
A court can modify or terminate child support as it deems necessary. The court has the power to increase or decrease the amount of support as it sees fit.
In order for the court to modify the child support order, there should be a showing of a material change of circumstances. Examples of changed circumstances are:
- Significant change in one of the parent’s net income
- A significant change in the parenting schedule
- Birth of a child
The court will still be guided by the Statewide Uniform Guideline in ruling on a motion for modification of child support. If the amount of support differs from the guideline amount, the court must include the following information:
- The amount of support that would have been ordered under the guideline formula.
- The reasons the amount of support ordered differs from the guideline formula amount.
- The reasons the amount of support ordered is consistent with the best interests of the children
Generally, there is no need to prove changed circumstances if the parties stipulate to a child support order below the guideline amount. However, if the parties have already stipulated to an amount higher from the guideline amount and now want to decrease the amount to a value lower than the guideline amount, the parties must show a change in circumstances.
The court also has the power to make an order modifying or terminating a child support order retroactive to the date on which the notice of motion or order to show cause was filed, or to any subsequent date.
Setting Aside Support Order
The court may relieve a party from paying support order. The grounds for seeking such relief are:
- Actual Fraud
- Lack of notice
The motion for relief must be filed within 6 months from discovery of the grounds relied upon. The said grounds must materially affect the support order and the moving party must material benefit from the granting of such relief.