Termination of Child Support or Spousal Support

There are two broad classes of support following a divorce (called marriage dissolution under California family law) or legal separation: 1. Child support if there are children from the marriage; 2. spousal support (also called alimony).

Generally a termination or modification of support can occur where there are substantially changed circumstances from the time of the original order.

Termination Of Child Support

There is automatic termination of support when the child becomes 18, or if the child is in high school, then until the child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever is first. There is no statute or case law holding parents to a duty to pay for college support in the absence of an agreement.

A parent cannot terminate an obligation to pay support for a child because the parent does not have enough money. Even if the court allows a parent to terminate future support obligations the parent is still responsible for all back child support that has not been paid.

According to the uniform child support guideline child support orders are modifiable “at any time the court deems necessary”. Thus a domestic relations judgment regarding the parents’ obligation to support their minor children can be modified based on changed circumstances-but only with court’s approval. However, parents cannot restrict the court’s authority, by entering into a modification agreement on their own.

Termination of Spousal Support (Alimony)

The party seeking the modification or termination must have evidence that the changed circumstances have restricted or impaired the spouse’s ability to continue the current financial support levels. Changed circumstances could include:

-Some part of the original divorce agreement is now changed thus triggering termination. An example would be the dependent spouse getting remarried.

-The needs of the dependent spouse has significantly changed

-The dependent spouse’s ability to contribute has changed. E.g. college completion or a new job

-The supporting spouse’s income has been impaired. E.g. job loss, demotion, etc

-When a party retires in good faith upon reaching the age of 65

Ideally the parties will enter into a consensual agreement to terminate or reduce alimony based upon changes in cohabitation, financial circumstances or economic status. A contested modification or termination will require time consuming and costly litigation and thus would be a last resort. To speak with one of our family lawyers serving the greater Los Angeles area about this or other family law issue, please contact us today at 626-440-9518 for a complementary confidential consultation.