Do I Have to Pay Child Support When My Child is Away from their Primary Residence
Some families have arrangements where a minor child is not at their primary residence for extended periods of time. The reason why the child is not at their primary residence is something that would be considered when determining if child support would still need to be paid.
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Child Support Orders Remain In Place Until Modified
First and foremost, if there is an order requiring child support to be paid, it must be paid. The child support order remains in place until it is modified, and it cannot be modified until a request is made. That means that if, for example, you lose your job in September but don’t file to modify your support until November of the same year, from September-November you are still required to pay the same amount of child support because the Court can only modify the child support retroactively back to the date that you ask them to.
Time Away from the Child’s Primary Residence
Generally speaking, whether or not child support is modifiable when a child is away from their primary residence largely depends on the reasons why they are away.
For example, if a child goes to live with the other parent for the entire summer, it might make sense to explore a modification of child support during that time period. It is likely, however, that this agreement would have to be part of the order where the schedule is set up (or the child support order that is entered in conjunction with the same.)
It is more difficult to say that you want to modify your support over the summer when the child has been coming to your house for the entire summer for five years and you have paid during those five years, than trying to modify it from the very beginning, because it was foreseeable that the child would be at your home all summer when the child support order was entered. So, this is something to look out for.
Temporary Absences from the Primary Residence
Temporary absences, such as going to stay with grandma and grandma for several weeks, or going to overnight camp, etc. are likely not going to impact a child support order. Children will be away from home at times and that is contemplated.
If they move into your house, though, on a semi-permanent basis, and it was unforeseen, that might be a scenario to explore a child support modification. Camp and temporary absences usually are not enough to impact a child support award. However, it can be argued when the camp expenses are allocated that one parent has a child support obligation which covers expenses for a child, AND they have to pay a portion of the camp, where some of the child support-related expenses are part of the camp costs (i.e. food). This argument could be made to try and lessen the amount that the obligor parent has to pay for camp, due to them paying child support, but it may or may not be successful. The residential parent still has to pay their bills to maintain the minor child’s primary residence, whether the child is at camp or not, to ensure the child has a home to come back to when camp ends.
Generally speaking, if you believe there is a basis to modify your child support, explore it right away with an experienced child support attorney. This will allow you to see if your situation qualifies and ensure that you can retroactively modify your obligation to the farthest back possible date.