Can You Owe Child Support After a Child Is 21?

By Beverly Bird

Nothing about divorce is ever totally black-and-white, including child support. Under most circumstances, you won't have to pay support if your children are over the age of 21. But exceptions exist to every rule, so it's possible that you might end up paying for a short while after your child's 21st birthday -- or even indefinitely.

Age of Majority

Each state recognizes a statutory age at which your child is legally considered an adult, and child support is no longer payable on her behalf after this time. In a majority of states, this age is 18. If your child is still in high school, some states require that you continue paying until she graduates. In a handful of states -- including New York, Indiana and Mississippi -- your child isn't legally an adult until she turns 21. If you divorce in one of these jurisdictions, you'll have to pay support through this time, unless she strikes out on her own. In this case, the law usually considers her self-supporting.

Post-Secondary Education

Some states require that divorced parents pay for their child's college costs. This may be in lieu of child support, or in addition to it, depending on where you live. Some jurisdictions, such as Colorado, cap college support at your child's 21st birthday, so even if you must pay it, you would not have to do so beyond age 21.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More


If your child is incapable of earning a living because she's mentally or physically disabled, her age doesn't matter. Support will continue indefinitely unless the court determines at some point that she's able to support herself.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Child Support Laws for Non-Minors in Texas


Related articles

How To Stop Alaska Child Support for My Daughter, Who Turned 18

In a perfect world, you could simply stop writing checks for child support when your child emancipates and reaches the age of majority. Alaska law makes it almost this easy. Depending on whether you're supporting more than one child and whether your ex-spouse objects, you might be able to terminate your support obligation through written notification to the state's Child Support Services Division, or you may not have to do anything at all.

Illinois Laws on Child Support of Disabled Children

In Illinois, as in all states, parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. This is true even when the parents were married and are now divorced. Typically, the parent ordered to pay child support must pay until the child turns 18. However, if the child is disabled, either or both parents may be required to continue supporting the child after that time.

Can a Parent Relinquish Child Support?

One of the greatest difficulties with understanding the divorce process is that the rules can change from state to state. What's true in one jurisdiction isn't always the rule in the next. However, child support laws are pretty universal; you can't get divorced without the court addressing it -- and most states will not allow you to waive it.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can You Get Child Support Stopped at 18 if a Child Is in Secondary School?

Most states agree that your child has the right to finish secondary school without worrying about supporting himself ...

Washington State Child Support Laws for Children Over the Age of 18 Years

Divorce doesn't always wait until your children are old enough to fly the nest – nor does it always happen when they're ...

The Child Support Obligation for a Non-Custodial Parent According to the Law in Illinois

Illinois is one of only 10 jurisdictions that still calculates child support the good, old-fashioned way, based only on ...

Child Support Questions & Answers

When parents of minor children divorce, one certainty is that their decree or judgment includes provisions for child ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED