Which Form Ends Child Support in California at Age 18?

By Teo Spengler

In an age where sons and daughters remain longer in the family home, one may question the concept of childhood dependence ending at majority. The issue is central to determining when child support should terminate. In California, the default position (reflected on court forms) is that child support terminates at the age of 18, but this can be altered by either the parents or the court.

In an age where sons and daughters remain longer in the family home, one may question the concept of childhood dependence ending at majority. The issue is central to determining when child support should terminate. In California, the default position (reflected on court forms) is that child support terminates at the age of 18, but this can be altered by either the parents or the court.

California Child Support

California law requires both parents to provide support for their minor children. The amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay is dictated by statutory guidelines; it varies depending upon the financial situation of both parents as well as the age and number of children. A family law judge is only permitted to deviate from the child support guidelines if the case falls within one of the express exceptions. California state government is also active in assisting custodial parents to collect unpaid child support.

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Judicial Council Form FL-342

All California counties require the same forms to commence and prosecute a divorce or separation. These forms, developed and updated by the California Judicial Council, are available online from the court system website as well as from online legal services providers. You must use court forms to request a child support order and to prepare the child support order for the court to include in its judgment. The court order form to request support is form FL-342. Language printed on the form provides that the child support continues "until further order of the court, or until the child marries, dies, is emancipated, reaches age 19, or reaches age 18 and is not a full-time high school student, whichever occurs first."

Alternative Agreements

Despite the language of form FL-342, nothing in California law requires that the obligation to pay child support terminates when a child turns 18. When parents arrive at a marriage settlement agreement, they can include whatever later termination point they agree upon. One common option is for parents to agree that child support continues until the age of 21 if the child remains in school. And many parents continue to assist sons and daughters financially even after the child-support obligation terminates.

Court Discretion

California courts have discretion in determining how long child support payments should continue in some cases. Although the general cutoff age is 18, or 19 if the child remains in high school, a court can award much longer support for a child who is disabled and unable to earn a living. The statutes provide: “The father and mother have an equal responsibility to maintain, to the extent of their ability, a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means.”

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Can a Part-Time College Student Over 18 Years Old Receive Child Support?

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Child Support Laws in New York State

Child support refers to payments by a non-custodial parent to a custodial parent for the benefit and maintenance of a minor child. State laws govern child support, but judges have some discretion. In New York, child support is treated as a separate matter from visitation and custody. A parent cannot withhold child support payments because the other party is interfering with his custodial or visitation rights.

Indiana's Secondary Education Child Support Laws

An Indiana law that went into effect in July 2012 changed the age at which the noncustodial parent can stop paying child support and the deadline for the custodial parent to ask the court to award child support for college expenses. Noncustodial parents can now ask the court to let them stop paying child support when their children are 19, and custodial parents must ask the court to order payment for college expenses before their children turn 19.

Nevada Laws on Child Support & Spousal Support

Spousal support, or alimony, and child support are treated in strikingly different ways in Nevada. In terms of spousal support, Nevada law requires its courts to award spousal support in a manner that is "just and equitable"; thus, awarding spousal support is a relatively subjective process. On the other hand, child support is usually awarded according to specific guidelines and amounts based on the number of children receiving support and gross income of the noncustodial spouse. However, these amounts are not set in stone -- they can be raised or lowered when special circumstances exist.

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