Child Support Modification for Children Who Are Graduating

Most child support orders are designed to help support a child and pay for their needs up until the point of their high school graduation. Beyond this point, parental support is typically voluntary, leaving many divorced and separated couples facing child support modification to change the amount they pay or stop payments altogether once a child reaches this point in their lives. Because this process can take a little time, it’s often best to start it before the graduation date to ensure it goes into effect at the proper time, rather than being delayed further. However, it all depends on the specific situation whether you will need to take action with the courts.

Automatic Termination

If the current support order covers only one child or the youngest child is graduating, the termination of child support is automatic under Arizona state law. This automatic termination takes place as soon as all conditions of the court order are met. This is typically once the child reaches the age of 18 and graduates from high school. If the child turns 18 prior to graduation or turns 18 after graduation, termination takes place at the time the second requirement is met. No specific action to end the child support is needed and there is no need to hire an attorney to file for this. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t have to take some actions related to the child support. In fact, if child support is currently garnished from your wages, you may need to file to stop the garnishment.

Changes to Child Support

In contrast, if you must still pay child support for younger siblings, there are no automatic changes that will be made to the child support amount simply based on one child turning 18 and graduating from high school. This means you will need to file a modification through the courts in order to adjust the amount appropriately. Under Arizona law, any requests to make changes to the existing child support order cannot be set retroactively. This means if you don’t file for the adjustment in a timely manner, you will likely end up paying the additional child support for a period beyond when you should. That’s why it’s best to talk to an attorney as soon as possible to determine the most appropriate time to file to ensure the changes go into effect at the right time. Changes can go back to the time the other party is served with the request.

Once you file for a modification of the existing child support order, the court will determine how much you should be paying for the number of children who still fall under the support order. The court will look at the number of children, the amount of money the parties in question make and other factors in accordance with the Arizona Child Support Guidelines. Contrary to what some people believe, the amount doesn’t simply go down by what would have been paid for that individual child. Because circumstances have likely changed since the order was set or even last reviewed, the court will look at all factors to make a determination. While child support may go down in many cases, this isn’t necessarily true. For instance, if you have gotten several raises and are making significantly more than you were when the order was set, there is a possibility you will be ordered to pay just as much as you were previously or perhaps even more. Be sure to talk to your lawyer about any potential factors that could change how much you owe so you are prepared for the outcome you’re most likely to receive.

Contact a Lawyer

Many people feel a child support modification is an easy process and won’t require the assistance of a qualified family law attorney. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Even if you don’t end up using a lawyer to handle your case and end up filing on your own in the end, consulting with one can help you evaluate if it’s worth pursuing the modification or if it is best left alone. While it’s important to fulfill your financial obligations to your children, it may be best to leave the amount as it is, rather than pursuing a modification that could result in owing more.

Contact the professionals at the Sampair Group to discuss Arizona child support guidelines and how they apply to your case.