Divorce doesn’t change the fact that children need financial support from their parents. Therefore, non-custodial parents must pay monthly child support to help custodial parents cover costs associated with clothing, food, healthcare, school supplies, and other basic daily necessities. But what happens to support payments in Utah when a child turns 18 and becomes an adult? Is it possible to cancel payments before your child turns 18? And are there any situations where a request to modify support will be denied?
What Happens When My Child Turns 18?
Utah Code § 78B-12-219 (Adjustment when Child Becomes Emancipated) provides that base child support will be automatically adjusted as soon as the child:
- Turns 18 years old.
- Graduates from high school (“during the child’s normal and expected year of graduation”).
- Gets married.
- Passes away.
- Is legally emancipated.
- Joins any branch of the Armed Forces.
This adjustment accounts for the remaining children who are still receiving child support, without reducing the award “by a per child amount.” If there are no other children, then support may be terminated altogether.
The term “automatic adjustment” is somewhat deceptive. In order to formally stop support payments, the payor must file an Affidavit for Termination of Child Support with the appropriate court, ideally with assistance from a divorce lawyer.
If the child has not yet reached age 18, and none of the other descriptors noted above are applicable (e.g. marriage, graduation), the situation becomes more complex. Generally speaking, it is not possible to prematurely terminate child support unless (1) the payor parent is also prepared to relinquish his or her parental rights, and (2) the payor parent is able to persuade the court that there are valid reasons to permit the cancellation of support.
It is also important to note that parents cannot avoid making payments simply by falling behind. Under Utah Code § 78B-5-202(6), past-due child support orders are enforceable for years. More specifically, this portion of code provides that past-due support orders may be enforced “within four years after the date the youngest child reaches majority,” or “eight years from the date of entry of the sum certain judgment [child support order] entered by a tribunal [court]” – whichever period of time is longer.
Modifying a Child Support Order in Utah
Many parents find themselves in a situation where they don’t necessarily want to terminate child support, but can no longer afford the monthly payments which were originally ordered by the court. In this type of scenario, the best path toward a satisfactory resolution may be reducing the payment amounts without canceling child support altogether.
Fortunately, it is often possible for divorced parents to adjust child support. However, the process does require some legal paperwork. Therefore, parents are strongly advised to retain assistance from a family law attorney. If you attempt to navigate the process on your own, you might make a mistake or miss a deadline which could compromise your ability to efficiently change your support obligations.
Modification of child support is accomplished through either filing a motion or filing a petition, based on the family’s unique financial circumstances (e.g. whether or not the proposed adjusted amount is consistent with Utah’s normal child support guidelines, the size of the difference between the support as ordered versus the support as required by Utah’s guidelines, and so forth).
Requests to review child support are handled by the Utah Department of Human Services, Office of Recovery Services/Child Support Services (ORS/CSS). As the Department cautions, support orders will not be modified by ORS/CSS if any of the following statements are true:
- The youngest child is less than one year away from turning 18.
- One of the parents cannot be located.
- One of the parents is incarcerated in jail or prison.
If you need help modifying a child support order in Utah, the experienced family law attorneys of Overson Law, LLC may be able to assist. We have years of experience handling a wide variety of family law matters in Utah, including but not limited to alimony, adoption, and prenuptial agreements.
To arrange for a free and confidential legal consultation, call our law offices right away at (801) 758-2287. We will keep your information private, and you will not be charged any fees for your consultation. Our lines are always open, including nights and weekends. We are prepared to handle cases in Salt Lake City and throughout the state of Utah.