What happens if over time a paying parent’s income increases, or decreases, for that matter? Well, whenever one of the parents desires a change in the amount of child support he or she has to file what we call a “Petition for Modification of Child Support.” Generally speaking, before the court will order an increase in the amount of support to be paid you have to show that there is an increased need on the part of the child and/or an increase in the paying parent’s income.
If a paying parent wants a reduction in the amount of support, that parent has to demonstrate that the reduction in income was not intentional and will be ongoing. If, for example, a paying parent is laid-off from his job because his/her company is down-sizing and the only job he/she can get is one that pays less money, a court will likely grant a reduction in child support because the reduction in income was not his/her fault. However, if the paying parent decides to quit his job and not work so that he/she can forego their support obligation, a judge will not be very sympathetic and the original amount of support will still be owed.
Since January 1, 2004, the obligation to pay support lasts until the child graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever comes first. However, the obligation can be extended where the child is mentally or physically disabled and not emancipated.
An issue related to child support but legally very different is payment of educational expenses after high school. Unlike child support for minors, there is no clear-cut mandatory guideline for determining how much a parent is going to be required to pay for post-high school educational expenses. In most cases, a parent will be required to contribute to the extent he or she is able. However, it’s important to note that a court makes decisions regarding post-high school education based not only on the financial resources of the parents but of the child, as well. In considering the child’s finances, the court will look at college savings, summer employment, loans, scholarships and grants. If the child has the ability and aptitude, to participate and excel in higher education, there is a good chance both parents will have to contribute to college.
There is still another variation in support. If maintenance is part of the equation, it is usually going to be taxable to the person receiving it and deductible for the person paying it. However, in some cases, the parties might agree to an arrangement known as unallocated support. What this means is that the amounts for maintenance and child support are lumped together and for tax purposes the entire amount is treated as maintenance. Therefore, the amount paid for child support is also taxable to the person receiving and deductible for the person paying. At times, unallocated support benefits the entire family; however, the parties must agree to it.