Wendy and Michael White divorced in 2003. The judge ordered Michael to pay child support for their two children. Their older child was 18 and graduated high school in 2014. By New Hampshire law, therefore, there was no longer a support obligation for the older child after he graduated. If there was only child, Michael’s payments would stop automatically. But because he continued to have to pay support for his younger child, that did not happen.
What Happens When One Child Graduates But the Other Still Requires Support?
The question was — how much less should he have to pay when his older child reached the age of majority? There are two basic possibilities in this situation. The first is that the judge, at the time he orders support, will say what happens when the older child reaches majority. Alternatively, the judge will not say. In that case, the parent paying support has an automatic right to ask the judge to reduce the support. In our experience, this second situation is much more common.
Don’t Sit On Your Rights!
In the case of the Whites, the judge did not say how much less Michael should pay when the older child reached majority. Although this happened in 2014, for whatever reason Michael did not file a motion to reduce the support until 2016. Big mistake!
Can The Judge Change Child Support Retroactively?
Michael argued that he should pay less retroactively back to 2014. He felt that he deserved a credit for all the extra support he paid during that two-year period. New Hampshire law, however, is very clear. The judge can’t modify child support retroactive to a date earlier than when the opposing party receives the petition to change the order. The judge may very well have believed Michael should have been paying less during that two-year period. But there was simply nothing the judge could do about it. Because the judge lowered Michael’s support retroactively when he should not have, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the decision.
The lesson is clear. Do not sit on your rights thinking it can be fixed later on. If you believe chid support, the parenting plan, or some other order impacting you should be changed, consult with a qualified New Hampshire divorce lawyer as soon as you can.