Child support and spousal support (sometimes referred to as alimony) have different purposes and are often awarded independently of each other. Child support typically ends when the child turns 18 or graduates high school (if he or she turned 18 before they graduated). This money is meant to be used to for the expenses incurred in caring for the health and well-being of the child. Spousal support, however, is meant to be used to “maintain the standard of living” the receiving spouse is accustomed to. This amount is determined by the courts based on age, the length of the marriage, the ability of one party to pay, etc.
Once child support ends, the paying partner does not automatically have to increase the spousal support, but the receiving partner can file for a modification to increase it. The reason spousal support changes once child support ends is because when the courts will determine the amount of child support required, they use the remaining net income to determine spousal support.
While California does allow modifications, there are conditions regulating their ability to increase it. There is a 6-month time limit to a receiving spouse to file for a modification UNLESS:
1. The child and spousal support orders are the result of a marital settlement agreement or judgment and the marital settlement agreement or judgment contains a provision regarding what is to occur when the child support order terminates.
2. The child and spousal orders are the results of a marital settlement agreement or judgment, which provides that the support order is non-modifiable or that spousal support is waived and the court’s jurisdiction over spousal support has been terminated.
3. The court’s jurisdiction over spousal support was previously terminated.
If you have received a modification request, you should contact a family law attorney immediately to defend your interests. If the receiving spouse is now able to apply for gainful employment without the expenses of children in the home, you may even have a case to modify your support to DECREASE instead of increase it. Contact Charles D. Stark Attorney at Law today, either via our online form or by calling 707.527.9900.