When does child support end?
A very common question we hear dozens of times a week deals with age of majority and statute of limitations. Not knowing when child support ends can catch you off guard, especially if you are the parent who is receiving the child support. In most states, child support ends when the child reaches age 18. Some states, however, allow child support to continue beyond 18 in certain circumstances, such as if the child is still living at home and attending high school, or if the child has special needs. In several states, you must take additional steps to terminate your court-ordered child support obligations or face paying or receiving payments beyond the actual child support end date. This is called emancipating the child.
Legal guidelines in all states allow child support to end when the child reaches the age of majority. The “age of majority” refers to the legal age established under state law when an individual is no longer a minor and can make certain legal decisions on their own behalf. In most states, child support ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first. In other states, the age may be 21. Because the age of majority varies so widely from state to state, it is important to know your order well and the state laws! The term “emancipation” refers to a court process through which a minor becomes self-supporting. A minor may become “emancipated” before the age of majority, when he or she gets married, joins the military, leaves home or becomes economically independent. Under these situations, a parent no longer has the obligation to provide child support. Some states allow child support to continue even after the age of majority when the support is used to pay for a child’s education, such as to attend colleges, universities and post-secondary institutions. Also, in the majority of court orders, support that is due through eh post secondary years is outlined in the child support order so there is no question regarding this additional period of support. Courts make exceptions for additional child support for parents who are caring for children who are disabled or who have special needs. Since courts often look at disability in terms of economic hardship, a parent is usually allowed to receive support, beyond the age of majority to adequately care for a disabled or special needs child.
Child support payments do not end automatically. The person who is obligated to make child support payments must request for their child support obligation to end once the child reaches the age of majority or a minor child becomes emancipated. Know your rights and know your order; you can contact the child support agency in your state for assistance in determining your child support end date, or speak with an attorney to discuss your specific rights and responsibilities.