Family support is when the court orders an amount for the support of both a spouse and child. There is not to specifically label all or any portion of the amount as child support so long as the amount is adjusted for tax purposes. The amount of family support must be adjusted by the court to maximize the tax benefits for both parents.
The Statewide Uniform Guideline still applies in computing family support. A family support order is enforceable in the same way a child support order is enforced.
Duration of Obligation to Pay Support
As a general rule, a parent’s obligation to pay support ceases when the child turns 18. There are several exceptions to this rule, however.
A parent’s obligation to pay support may be extended in the event the child is 18 years old, unmarried, and not self-supporting. In this case, 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.
Support may also be continued even if the child is already beyond 19 years old in the following circumstances:
- A parent agrees to provide support beyond this time
- The child is incapacitated from earning a living and is without sufficient means.
The court can use the Statewide Uniform Guideline in computing support for an adult child who is incapacitated and without sufficient means. However, the court is not strictly required to adhere to the guideline formula in this case. The court may depart from the guidelines as the circumstances warrant. For example, the court may reduce the amount of support if a disabled adult child has some independent income or assets.
The guideline formula cannot be used in computing support for a competent adult child who has moved away to college when neither parent retains primary physical responsibility for the adult child for any percentage of time.
Modification of Child Support Order
The child support order can be modified by the court as it deems necessary. The court can increase or decrease the amount of child support, notwithstanding any protest from the parents.
Generally, there has to be a showing of a material change in circumstances to merit a modification of a child support order. Examples of changed circumstances include the following:
- Significant change in one of the parent’s net income
- A significant change in the parenting schedule
- Birth of a child
In modifying the child support order, the court must still adhere to the Statewide Uniform Guideline. If the amount of support differs from the guideline amount, the court must include the following information:
There is no need to prove a change in circumstance if the modification of the order is because of stipulation by the parties. However, if the parties have previously stipulated a higher amount and now want to decrease the said amount below the guideline amount, it is necessary to show a change in circumstances.
Setting Aside Support Order
A party may be relieved by the court from paying all or a part of the order based on the following grounds:
- Actual Fraud
- Lack of Notice
The motion for relief must be brought within 6 months from the discovery of any of the grounds mentioned above.
The facts alleged as grounds for relief must materially affect the support order in order for the court to grant relief. The court cannot set aside a support order merely because it was unfair when it was made or because subsequent circumstances have caused the amount of support to become excessive or inadequate.