Are you out of the woods if you pay a lump sum child support? If not, in what case can you still be asked to pay more money to support your child? Let's assume that the country is the United States and the couple lives in California.

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    Is this an agreement made with the primary parent? Jul 7, 2021 at 11:12
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    What does "out of the woods" mean here? In California you pay to support the child until they turn 18. Often it comes off of your paycheck directly. There's no "lump sum" involved - it's ongoing until the child becomes an adult or dies. So what is this question about, exactly?
    – J...
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:10
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    @J... Lump sum payments in divorces are fairly common when the obligated party is self-employed or has irregular income, but asset rich (e.g. contingent fee lawyers and commission only commercial real estate agents). If income is hard to predict, a rough estimate is used anyway. But prospective amounts are subject to modification (prospectively only).
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:22
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    @ohwilleke Ok, but OP has given us no information about any of that, so how can we offer advice without understanding their situation? It's not clear what the circumstances are, nor the question they're asking.
    – J...
    Jul 7, 2021 at 16:31
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    @J. The answer below and my comment cover all of the possibilities, with and without a lump sum payment. Lump sum child support payments do exist (contrary to your comment) even though they are a rare exception, but they do not mean that someone is "out of the woods" so to speak since they are still subject to modification.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 7, 2021 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


I am not aware of any U.S. state that allows amounts owed for future child support to be paid in a lump sum that cannot be modified in the future if there is a change in circumstances (e.g. increased or deceased incomes of the parties, or changes in parenting time).

There may be an exception for very high income families where the child support guidelines set under state law (but mandated by federal law), apply and the maximum guideline amount is paid in a lump sum.

Lump sum alimony (a.k.a. spousal maintenance), however, may be paid in a lump sum, as may child support for periods that have taken place in the past, whether or not they are past due.

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