Child support ordinarily terminates when a child turns 18 years old unless the child remains a full-time high student, in which case, support continues until the child graduates or turns 19 (whichever comes first). If you are the spouse paying alimony and child support you may be looking forward to some financial relief once child support is over. (although I think we all realize that kids who turn 18 are generally not self-supporting and still require the financial assistance of one or both parents). So let’s just say, you may feel some financial relief over compelled payments to your former spouse. But just how certain is this relief? Well, it depends.
Under California law, the termination of child support is considered a change in circumstances that can justify a modification of spousal support. In other words, unless the court has ordered differently and/or you have negotiated an unequivocal term regarding spousal support, spousal support can be adjusted upwards, thereby assisting the former spouse with his or her financial needs.
Will spousal support be automatically increased when my child turns 18?
Unless agreed to otherwise, the answer is no. The termination of child support does not automatically cause an increase in spousal support. The party requesting the modification must file a motion within 6 months of the date that child support ends. Then, both parties will submit documentation and the court will determine whether there should be an increase in spousal support. In other words, the termination of child support is considered a basis for re-examining the amount of spousal support, not an automatic reason to increase.
There are some situations where spousal support can’t be modified, even when child support ends. If there is a Marriage Settlement Agreement (MSA) or Stipulated Judgment that dictates what happens when child support terminates, the MSA or Judgment controls.
If the child support you receive or pay for your child is nearing termination, you may want to file a motion to increase spousal support or be aware that your ex could be getting ready to request an increase. To get a clear picture of the law regardless of what side you are on, you should consult with an experienced family law lawyer.
**Please note that this blog pertains to existing California law and is meant for informational purposes only. Please do not make decisions that will affect your future based on things you’ve read on our website. Instead, consult with a Certified Family Law Specialist, like those of LFLG – or any other you prefer – but be sure to seek out sound legal advice that pertains specifically to the facts of your case.