The Bresso Law Blog

Bankruptcy and Family Law Blog

Can I Get Child Support After My Child Turns 18?

After all, your child doesn’t suddenly stop being your child when he or she turns 18.  And we all know that you will be supporting your kid in some way, shape or form after they turn 18.  But what about child support? Will the other parent have to pay his or her fair share, too?

In California, a parent’s obligation to support his or her child ends when the child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever comes first.  This essentially means that if you were getting regular child support you can kiss it goodbye when your child graduates from high school.

But we all know that your child doesn’t magically become independent at the age of 18.  On their 18th birthday, he or she doesn’t suddenly become gainfully employed or has started college with tuition all paid up.  If you’re like my parents and millions of parents out there, you may be supporting your child well into their 20s.

So what should you do to about support after your child turns 18?  There is nothing in the law that says parents can’t agree to extend the time the non-custodial parent (i.e. the parent the child doesn’t live with) for as long as the child requires.  However, I wouldn’t agree to do this indefinitely.  Carefully define how long you will agree to provide support, (for example, until the child reaches 25 or gets married, whichever comes first).  And get it in writing.

I think the help that most custodial parents are looking for when their child turns 18 and graduates from high school is assistance with a college education.  Ideally, you should think about this early before the non-custodial parent is doing his or her happy dance because child support is finally done and over with.  Now, I’m not trying to imply that a non-custodial parent doesn’t want to be financial responsible for his or her child.  I’m sure my parents, who have been married for over 30 years, were happy when I finally became self supporting (let’s see…I think I was 27 when I finally moved out for good).

An agreement to extend a non-custodial parent’s obligation to pay child support is a contract between the two parents.  This means that you can sue each other if the terms of the agreement are not followed (unless you have turned your agreement to a judgment.  If you agreement is merged into a judgment, you are limited to the methods used for enforcing a judgment, for example a contempt action).  So before entering into this agreement the parents should think about the following:

CUSTODIAL PARENT (the one asking for support after the child turns 18) NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT (the one who is being asked to pay support after the child turns 18)
What do you want help with?  Tuition? Expenses? Both? What expenses do you want the non-custodial parent to help pay? Books, room and board, food, etc.? What are you willing to help with? Tuition? Expenses? Both?  What expenses do you want to help pay? Books, room and board, food, etc.?
If your child is going to school away from home, do you want the other parent to help with travel to and from school?  How often, e.g. whenever the child wants to come home?  For holidays? Are you willing to help with your child’s travel costs to and from school? How often, e.g. whenever the child wants to come home?  For holidays?
  Before you agree to pay anything, do you want to have a say on where your child goes to school? Do you want final approval?
  Should there be a cap on how much you will contribute?  Or will you contribute a percentage of the costs?  For example, you can agree to pay 1/3 of the costs, assuming that the custodial parent and the child will be responsible for the other 2/3.
  How long do you want to help pay for schooling?  Until the child ultimately graduates?  Careful here.  I know people who have taken six and seven years to finish school.  Think “Van Wilder.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283111/
Does financial help include tuition and expenses for post-graduate education, like graduate school or law school?  
If future income changes affect the other parents ability to pay, do you want proof of the change of income? What happens if you income changes?  Do you still want to be obligated to help if you income takes a dive?
  What obligations, if any, does the child have toward his or her own college tuition and expenses?

Finally, if you and the other party really can’t stand each other long enough to make agreements on the above, consider opening up a college savings account for your child and both agree to contribute something to it on a regular basis.  You will have to work out some issues (for example, who is in charge of the account and who can take money out) but it may be less painful than the things you have to consider above.

The moral of the story? If you want the non-custodial parent to be obligated to continue child support after he or she is no longer required to pay it, get him or her to agree to do it as soon as possible and get it in writing.

If you are the non-custodial parent? Don’t become obligated (either by a judgment or contract) to continuing paying child support without carefully spelling out under what conditions you are willing to do so.

 

 

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December 1, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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