Generally, child support terminates once the child moves out of his parent's home to live independently. Support is meant to benefit the child, but payment is ordered to the custodial parent to cover the noncustodial parent's share of child rearing expenses. State statutes specify conditions that turn a child into an adult, for support purposes. In most states, moving out of the parent's home to live independently qualifies as a transition into adulthood that terminates the support obligation.
All states consider it a child's right to receive support from his parents. Generally, states uniformly provide that a receiving parent cannot refuse or waive receipt of child support, as the right to receive it belongs to the child not the parent. Likewise, parents cannot mutually agree to waive support. The paying parent may not specify how support payments are used; this is at the discretion of the custodial parent, whose responsibility it is to budget for daily household operation.
Noncustodial parents are generally required to pay child support until the child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in most states. However, the obligation may continue if the child is still living at home and still in high school. In this instance, majority usually occurs at age 19 or upon graduation from high school, whichever happens later, although the ages and requirements vary slightly from state to state.
Most states also consider children legal adults when they graduate high school, marry, join the military, or become financially self-supporting while living independently of their parents. In these instances, children are considered no longer in need of support and a noncustodial parent may petition the family court for termination of support payments. Support may terminate automatically upon a certain date or event if specified in a parenting plan mutually agreed upon by the parents. The court also can specify an end date in the support order.
If an adult other than a parent is made the child's legal guardian, the biological parents still must financially support the child. In this instance, the parents are generally required to pay support to the guardian for the benefit of the child. The support obligation terminates when the child reaches majority age, graduates high school, marries, joins the military or is otherwise declared an adult by the court.
Back Child Support
The paying parent still owes any past due child support even after the support obligation terminates. Generally, the former custodial parent sues the paying parent for the past due amount. If recovered, the past due amount reimburses the custodial parent. However, in some states, the child may sue and recover the past due child support. In New Mexico, a child has three years from the date of legal adulthood to sue either or both parents for back support.