Child support is to help parents contribute to the financial well-being of their children. Typically, after a divorce or marital split, an agreement is made that one parent will contribute financially. And the other parent may be the primary caretaker.
The parent with a higher income pays the other parent a percentage of their income. A court will then calculate the amount needed to be paid to the reciprocating parent. An agreement is then made on when and how to pay.
The payment given to the other spouse is supposed to pay for housing, meals, clothing, educational purposes, or anything else that contributes to raising the child. The goal is for the child to maintain a similar style of life as before the divorce.
After years of either paying or receiving child support, you may be wondering, when does child support end? Child support typically ends when the child turns 18. But, that is not always the case.
Not all states agree that 18 is when you become an adult. So child support ends in all states a little differently. Continue reading below to see how long child support may last for you.
Child Support Timeline
Age Of Majority
Child support ends when the child reaches the Age of Majority. The age of majority is when the state feels like the child has become an adult. While most States agree that 18 is when most teens become adults, not all states agree.
In some states, the age of majority is over 18, such as Mississippi, they have their age set at 21. Alabama and Nebraska both have theirs set at the age of 19. Check with your state to see what your age of majority is.
Paying Beyond The Age of Majority
Child support can go beyond the age of majority. Depending on other factors, you may be required to pay child support beyond the age of majority and possibly forever.
You may have to pay for your child’s education expenses after turning 18. If the child is continuing their education past the age of majority, the parents or courts may agree to continue payments until they finish school.
If you pay child support beyond the age of majority due to continuing education expenses, you can request proof that the funds are properly used.
Special Needs Or Disabilities
If the child has special needs or a disability, child support can extend beyond the age of majority for these cases. Parents often legally agree to which parent will take care of the disabled child after they turn 18.
A child with special needs will have expenses that go beyond adulthood. The court may decide that support is needed indefinitely or until the child dies.
Ending Child Support Before Age of Majority
There may be some reasons why you should end child support payments early. If your child meets any requirements, remember that you must get the court to agree before you stop making payments. You can’t just stop because the criteria have been met.
Your child is under the age of majority but may choose to emancipate themselves. They are adults in the eyes of the law. And will no longer need your financial support. Emancipation is the legal process for a minor to prove that they can support themselves financially.
Once the child is emancipated they agree to take on the responsibility of being an adult. They have proved to the court that they are self-sufficient in every way.
Joining The Military
If your child joins the military, you may no longer be required to pay child support. Your child can request emancipation due to their enrollment in the military. Once they are emancipated you can request to have child support ended.
Your child is an adult once they get married, even if they are under the age of majority. Emancipation can begin once a minor marries, depending on the laws of the state. If emancipation is granted you will no longer be responsible for child support payments.
If your child passes away, you are no longer required to pay child support.
Child Support Modifications
If the parent who pays child support loses their job or has a change in the household income, they may no longer be able to afford to pay child support. Financial hardships can cause a struggle for the parent to keep up with payments.
The court may reduce or remove the payments if you ask for a child support modification order. A child support modification order is a legally binding order that recalculates your finances and changes the amount due each month.
The modification order can increase the payment amount, too. If one parent gets a significant salary increase, they may want to pay more. Or, if the primary caretaker has a loss of income, they may request more from the financial caretaker.
Hiring Your Own Attorney
If you are still unsure when child support should end for you or any other legal question when going through a divorce, you should hire a family law attorney.
Your lawyer will be able to answer any questions that you have regarding your divorce, child support payments, or what to do next.
Breaking apart your family can be a stressful financial mess. You will need a lawyer for most agreements and sometimes need them modified.
Following a court order for child support may not be your ideal way to help support your children, but it is the path that you chose. Staying responsible includes following the rules set by the court.
Child support will only last until your state says that your child is an adult and can support themselves. At that point, you will be able to request to stop paying.
Remember to consult with your family law lawyer before changing anything on your child support agreement. They will give you the best options and suggestions. Your family law attorney will know what to ask and help make your process go smoothly.
The Law Offices of Eric Andrew Mercer provides family law legal services in Sacramento, California.