January 16, 2007
MODIFICATION OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDER
By: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
You asked whether a person can get a modification of a child support order that is nearly 20 years old to increase the time period for paying child support by requiring payment until the child reaches an age beyond the age specified in the original order. Our office is not authorized to give legal opinions and this report should not be considered one.
It does not appear that such an order could be modified since presumably the child would be around 20 years of age. By law, the Superior Court or a family support magistrate may make and enforce orders for the payment of support to such person's child under the age of 18. But if such child is unmarried and a full-time high school student, such support must continue according to the parents' respective abilities, if such child is in need of support, until such child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19, whichever occurs first. However this requirement for children until age 19 only applies to divorce decrees that occur after July, 1, 1994. The maximum age is 21 for certain children who are mentally retarded or physically or mentally disabled, but this is limited to divorces that occur on or after October 1, 1997.
Anyone who has questions about whether a particular child support order can be modified should consult with an experienced family law attorney to make sure of their legal rights and responsibilities.
CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS
As a general matter, the obligation of a parent to support a child terminates when the child attains the age of majority, which in Connecticut is 18 (CGS § 1-1d; Kennedy v. Kennedy, 177 Conn. 47, 52, (1979); Sillman v. Sillman, 168 Conn. 144 (1975)). The statutory grant of jurisdiction to the Superior Court child support matters related to the dissolution of a marriage expressly limits the court's jurisdiction to orders involving only minor children (Cariseo v. Cariseo, 190 Conn. 141, 142-43, (1983)).
Upon or after the annulment or dissolution of any marriage or the entry of a decree of legal separation or divorce, the parents of a minor child of the marriage must maintain the child according to their respective abilities, if the child is in need of maintenance (CGS § 46b-84(a)).
If there is an unmarried child of the marriage who has attained the age of 18, is a full-time high school student, and resides with a parent, the parents must maintain the child according to their respective abilities if the child is in need of maintenance until the child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19, whichever occurs first. But this requirement only applies to cases where the decree of dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment is entered on or after July 1, 1994 (CGS § 46b-84(b)).
The court may make appropriate orders of support of any child with mental retardation or a mental disability or physical disability who resides with a parent and is principally dependent upon such parent for maintenance until such child attains the age of 21. The child support guidelines established by law do not apply to orders for such children. But these requirements only apply only in cases where the decree of dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or annulment is entered on or after October 1, 1997, or where the initial support orders in actions not claiming any such decree are entered on or after October 1, 1997 (CGS § 46b-84(c)).
In determining whether a child is in need of maintenance and, if in need, the respective abilities of the parents to provide such maintenance and the amount thereof, the court must consider the age, health, station, occupation, earning capacity, amount and sources of income, estate, vocational skills, and employability of each of the parents, and the age, health, station, occupation, educational status and expectation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, and needs of the child (CGS § 46b-84(d)).