The legal obligation to financially support a child begins at birth of the child, but most people, especially married couples, do not think about this duty because the child is folded into the household and becomes a part of daily life. Financial obligations take on a more apparent role in parents’ lives if they separate or divorce, and one is ordered to pay child support. Child support payments are a monthly responsibility that come with big consequences if the parent falls behind or stops paying altogether. A parent can face anything from a driver’s license suspension to jail time for not paying child support on a timely basis. For parents who hold this legal duty, knowing when it will end is important in maintaining a handle on their financial security long-term.
Standard Termination Date for Child Support
Whenever a child support order is issued by a court, it must outline when the obligation will end, which is usually when a child reaches 18. The parties, however, can always agree on a different end point. The order must also state how the amount will be adjusted as the children age, and may list the month, day, and year the child support order is no longer effective.
It is important to note that child support obligations can be extended for children who turn 18 while still in high school but expect to graduate before becoming 19. In this case, the child support obligation would end when the child graduates or turns 19, whichever is later. In addition, children who are mentally or physically incapacitated may require support on an extended or permanent basis.
In any event, if a parent believes that his or her child support obligation is no longer valid, that parent should contact an experienced family law attorney to verify this information before stopping payments.
Other Circumstances that End Child Support Obligations
While 18 years old is the customary age at which parents are no longer required to support their children, there are other events that can occur to end that support obligation sooner. If a child enters the military or gets married prior to the age of 18, the child is considered an adult under the law, and child support is no longer required. Note that minors cannot marry without parental consent, unless the minor is pregnant or parent to a child. Additionally, a court has the authority to emancipate a minor 16 years or older if sufficient evidence is provided that indicates the minor is mentally and financially able to live independently. Most importantly, the court must find that emancipation is in the minor’s best interest. Evidence of self-support typically requires the minor to leave the parent’s home, find a place to live, and secure steady employment so the minor can pay for necessities like food, shelter, and clothing.
Consult a Family Law Attorney
If you have reason to believe your obligation to pay child support is close to ending, it is important to read the language of the child support order to verify if a definite end date was included. Even if an end date is listed, it is best to check with an attorney to see if you need to file additional petitions with the court to fully end your duty to pay. At the Tampa Bay Legal Center, our experienced attorneys can walk you through the child support process from beginning to end and make sure your legal interests are fully represented in court. Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.