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Supreme Court Clarifies Law Regarding Termination Of Child Support

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2018 | Divorce & Family

In the recent Supreme Court decision of White and White (decided February 9, 2018) the Supreme Court clarified when child support terminates in cases where one of several children turns 18 or graduates high school.  Under New Hampshire law, child support terminates when the child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school whichever occurs last.  Where child is paid for only one child, termination is automatic when the later of those two events occur.  There is some confusion, however, as to what the obligor parent must do when there are multiple children covered by the child support order and one of those children “ages out” of child support.

In the case of White and White, the child support order covered multiple children.  One of the children “aged out” of child support in 2014.  The father, however, did not bring an action to modify child support until 2016.  In his action to modify child support, he requested that the child support be modified retroactively to June 2014 because the eldest child was no longer entitled to receive child support after that date.  The trial court agreed and retroactively modified the child support.

On an appeal, the Supreme Court reversed indicating that in cases where there are multiple children and one of them ages out of child support, the obligor parent must bring an action to modify the child support order immediately.  Termination of child support in a multiple multi-child situation is not automatic as the support amount must be recalculated.

It is also important to note that the trial court cannot modify child support earlier than the date of service of the petition to modify.  Therefore, parents who pay child support for multiple children are strongly encouraged to seek a modification of child support at or near the time the eldest child “ages out” of child support to avoid possible overpayment of child payment of child support that cannot subsequently be recovered.

Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A.  Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].