How Long Do Child Support Payments Last?

In earlier posts we discussed how child  support payments are calculated. How long do those payments last? What is the cut-off point for child support payments?

It depends on the state that you live in. In most states the age for child support payments to stop is at the age of 18, or until the child graduates from high school. Generally, the law requires a parent paying child support to make those child support payments until your child is no longer a minor (unless the child has special needs); the child becomes active-duty military; your parental rights are terminated through adoption or another legal process; or your minor child is declared “emancipated” by a court—that is, declared an adult earlier than normal because of the ability to be self-supporting.

Both parents have a responsibility to support their children financially. After a divorce, and one parent has physical custody of the children, that parent’s responsibility is fulfilled by being the custodial parent. The other parent then makes a child support payment which fulfills that non-custodial parent’s financial responsibilities. In the case of joint custody, the amount of child support payments each pays is normally calculated by the court considering the percentage each parent contributes to the couple’s joint income and the percentage of time each parent has physical custody of the children.

In California, The legal duty of child support payments continues until the child turns 18 years of age, and has graduated from high school; or turns 19 years old, whichever occurs first; marries; dies; or is legally free in some way, such as joining the military, or the court may also order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child if that child cannot support him or herself.

In Texas, a non-custodial parent is required to pay child support until the child reaches the age of 18 and the court can order support to continue until a child graduates from high school if the child is enrolled and regularly attending. A court may order child support payments for an indefinite period if the child is physically or mentally disabled. Child support can also end if the child marries or enlists in the military, becomes legally emancipated, or marries. As a part of a divorce settlement, the paying parent may agree to continue supporting a child through college, or the parents can agree to share college expenses.

In Florida, child support terminates when a child turns 18.  However, if the child is still in high school with “a reasonable expectation of graduating on time,” child support will continue until the child turns 19.  There is no law in Florida obligating either parent to pay for the child’s college education, although the parties to a Florida divorce or custody case can always agree to do this.

In the District of Columbia, the duty to provide support begins when the child is born and continues until the child is emancipated. Emancipation usually occurs when the child turns 21 years old, but it can happen before then if the child gets married, joins the military, or becomes self supporting. The emancipation age is set by the state that issued the first child support order. If D.C. issues the first support order, the emancipation age will be 21, even if the parents later move to another state where the emancipation age is younger.

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