Does Child Support End When the Child Graduates From High School?

By Jim Thomas

Graduation from high school may or may not end your obligation to pay child support. It depends on two main factors, the statutory requirements in the state the child resides and any contractual obligations you agreed to in writing, usually during a divorce proceeding. Generally, by the time a child graduates from high school, he becomes an adult in the eyes of the law, thereby terminating your duty to pay child support. But there are many exceptions to the general rule.

Emancipation

When your child becomes emancipated, he becomes an adult in the eyes of the law. As the Children's Rights Council explains, emancipation, also known as the age of majority, enables a son or daughter to be freed from parental control and a parent to be freed of legal responsibility for the son or daughter. Often, emancipation will end the obligation to pay child support. But emancipation does not always take effect when your child graduates from high school.

State Statutes

In states such as Arizona, Connecticut and Delaware, 18 is defined as the age of majority. When a child reaches 18 in these states, child support ends unless it is superseded by a written agreement between the parents to continue payments for a longer period of time. In Indiana, the age of majority is 21. In the District of Columbia, it is also age 21, or when a minor becomes self-supporting by reason of marriage, employment or military service. Some statutes are quite elaborate. For example, Minnesota defines the age of majority as 18, although the age is raised to 20 if the child is still attending secondary school. Additionally, children over 20 who can't support themselves because of a disability are still defined as minors and entitled to child support.

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Written Agreements

The Franklin Law Firm in Massachusetts offers a sample written agreement that provides for continued child support past the time of high school graduation. For example, such an agreement could provide for child support until the age of 23, if a child was dependent upon you for child support and enrolled in college. As long as the child was successfully attaining a college education, his age of emancipation would be triggered by graduating from college or turning 23, whichever came first. The agreement could include other triggers of emancipation, such as marriage or joining the military.

Petitions to Terminate Child Support

Most states require you to take legal action in the court that initially ordered child support to terminate your obligations. In Alabama, for example, you must file a sworn statement with the clerk's office stating that your child has reached the age of majority and you have paid all previously owed support payments. In Kentucky, you must furnish the Department of Health and Family Services with your child's birth certificate and, if applicable, your marriage license, to terminate a child support order. However, in states such as Georgia, child support obligations are automatically terminated once the child reaches the age of majority.

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Can Child Support Be Rescinded if My Child Quits School?
 

References

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California Family Laws on Terminating Child Support

Both parents have a responsibility to provide for the financial needs of their minor children in California. When one parent asks for a child support order, the judge reviews the family's financial information and determines the amount the other parent must pay. The presumed father can terminate his obligation to pay child support by disproving paternity, and either parent can seek a modification based on changed circumstances. If not otherwise terminated, the child support obligation lasts until the child is emancipated.

Can You Receive Child Support if a Child Was Not Legally Adopted?

Child support is financial aid one parent pays to the other as a contribution toward the food, shelter, medical care and other necessities for his minor children. Although currently courts mandate child support payments only for biological or adoptive parents, an adult can agree to make child support payments for a stepchild he has never formally adopted.

How to Get Child Support Dropped if the Child is 18

When one parent is paying child support, the support ends upon the child's emancipation, which is when the child can legally act as an adult. However, emancipation does not always occur when a child turns 18. State laws vary concerning emancipation. Furthermore, a divorce decree can order that a parent continue paying child support while a child is enrolled in college. For these reasons, it is essential that you carefully review your divorce decree and your state's child support guidelines prior to making any changes to your child support payments.

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