Under California law, support orders may be modified or terminated at any time, as the court deems necessary. The law further defines "support order" as including a child, family or spousal support order. These provisions apply to cases filed in family courts in San Diego and throughout the state. And court decisions interpreting the statutory language, in relation to the underlying facts and circumstances of a case, can impact the way future family court cases are decided. Families facing child support disputes are encouraged to contact an experienced family law attorney who is fully knowledgeable of the local and recent court decisions affecting a party's right to child support.
It is important to understand the complexity of child support laws and how they apply to adult versus minor children. While California law specifies that a parent's child support obligation typically extends until a child reaches the age of 19 or completes the 12th grade, parents may agree to provide additional support. The question then arises, does a court have the authority to modify such an agreed upon extension of support for an adult child?
In a case of first impression in California, the court of appeals was asked to decide whether, under the state family code, parents may contractually limit the court's jurisdiction to modify an adult child support order that was made under the parents' marital settlement agreement. Here, the court looked at the interplay of two applicable family code statutes: section 3651 and section 3587. Section 3651 provides a court the authority to modify or terminate a support order - subject to section 3587, which gives a court the authority to approve a stipulated agreement by the parents to pay for the support of an adult child.