What Is the Illinois Law on Age and Paying Child Support?

By Travis Gray, J.D.

What Is the Illinois Law on Age and Paying Child Support?

By Travis Gray, J.D.

When a marriage comes to an end through the divorce process, Illinois courts are careful to ensure that the financial needs of the children are met. These needs are met through the system of child support, which requires a parent to take on some of the expenses of raising the children when the other parent has physical custody. However, child support doesn't last forever under Illinois law. The end of your obligation depends on a variety of factors.

Child support agreement and a gavel on a desk

The amount of child support you are obligated to pay, if any, is set in your final divorce decree. While matters of support and custody can be altered later, it is better to obtain an outcome in your divorce proceedings that is favorable the first time around.

Child Support Obligation Basics

Generally speaking, you are obligated to continue making child support payments until your child turns 18. The State of Illinois treats that as the age of majority, which gives your child certain rights and responsibilities as an adult.

In most cases, your divorce decree gives a specific date when your child support obligation ends. If the decree fails to set a specific date, you need to petition the court in order to end your child support obligation. If you stop paying without permission, you could find yourself held in contempt by the court.


As with most things, there are exceptions that apply to when your child support obligations may end. In fact, they can go both ways. In some circumstances, you may be required to continuing making payments long after your child turns 18. But in other cases, your child support obligations may end before they reach the age of majority.

When Child Support Can End Early

Under certain circumstances, your child may voluntarily accept the responsibilities that come with being an adult before their 18th birthday. Known as emancipation, this process results in your child becoming a legal adult. Usually, your obligation to pay child support ends when your child is emancipated. Some of the most common situations that result in emancipation include:

  • Your child getting married
  • Your child joining the military
  • Your child leaving the home and supporting themselves

In the alternative, your child is not be considered emancipated solely on the basis of having a child, receiving public assistance, or dropping out of school.

When Child Support Can Last Beyond 18

In the alternative, some circumstances can extend the length of time you are required to pay child support. The most common example is when your child is still in high school at the time they turn 18. In that situation, the court is likely to order you to pay child support until their 19th birthday. Your obligation may also be extended if your child has physical or mental disabilities that require advanced care. In other cases, the court may order that child support continue while your children are still in college.

If you have more than one child, the court orders an amount of child support necessary to support all of them. The order won't assign a specific amount per child, which means that without modifying your support agreement, you could wind up paying more than required.

Just remember—you are responsible for paying the amount set out in the final divorce decree until the date set in the decree unless your family fits one of the exceptional situations above. You must follow the parameters set in your Illinois divorce decree for child support unless you have it altered.

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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