How to Get Child Support Dropped If the Child Is 18

By Travis Gray, J.D.

How to Get Child Support Dropped If the Child Is 18

By Travis Gray, J.D.

It is a common misconception that child support obligations end when your child turns 18. The reality is that in most states you may be required to continue paying child support after your child has reached the age of 18, particularly if your child is in college or has special needs. It is also possible that your divorce decree mandates that you keep paying even though your child is legally an adult. For this reason, you may need a court order relieving you of your child support obligations.

The backs of a man with his arm around a teenage boy

When Your Child Support Obligation Ends

Ultimately, the date you can get child support dropped depends on the laws of your state and the language in your divorce decree. Child support obligations are just one example of the importance of obtaining a favorable divorce decree. Getting help with your divorce can pay dividends for years to come if you can reach a decree order that is reasonable and fair.

In most, there are three ways in which your child support obligations can end:

  1. Your child becomes emancipated. In most states, your responsibility to pay child support can come to an end before your child turns 18 if they are considered legally emancipated. An emancipated child is one that is no longer financially dependent on their parents. Typically, a child is not emancipated until they have completed high school. However, some state laws allow for the emancipation of a child after they marry or join the military.
  2. Your child passes away. In the unfortunate case of the passing of a child, any ongoing child support obligations terminate. However, it is worth noting that any past due child support owed to the other parent will still be due.
  3. Your child reaches the age of majority. Child support obligations usually end when a child reaches the age of majority, or adulthood. In most states, the age of majority is 18, which would mean that the month your child turns 18 is the final month you owe child support.

Child Support Beyond the Age of Majority

There are a few common exceptions that require you to continue paying child support despite your child reaching the age of majority, though. These include:

  • Your child is in school. In many cases, state law and divorce decrees may require that you continue to pay child support after your child has turned 18 if they are still in high school. In some states, that requirement even extends to when your child is a full-time college student.
  • Your child has special needs. If your child has a disability or other special needs, the court may extend your obligations beyond the child's 18th birthday. The financial cost of raising a child with special needs can be high, which may lead the court to extend your obligation. Some divorce decrees also include this exception.

The process for ending your child support payments depends on the laws of your state, regardless of the reason your obligation has terminated. In some states, you can stop making payments the month after your obligation ends. In many cases, however, you need a court order relieving you of the obligation.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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