If you are making child support payments in Texas, the law generally requires you to do so until your child turns 18, which is the age that marks adulthood in the state, or when he graduates from high school -- whichever comes later. There are exceptions, however -- if your child is recognized as an adult before he turns 18 -- or if he is disabled and requires child support past age 18. The procedure for stopping support payments at the appropriate time is relatively straightforward.
Emancipation in Texas, formerly called the removal of disabilities of a minor, allows minors to be granted adulthood at age 16 or 17, under certain conditions. A minor can become emancipated before age 18 by getting married, joining the military, or petitioning the court for his freedom from parental control. To be eligible to petition, the minor must be a Texas resident, age 17 -- or is a Texas resident who is at least age 16 and living separately from his parents, and who is also self-supporting and able to manage his affairs. When your child is emancipated, you are free of continued child support payments. As Texas family law attorney Samantha Chambers writes, at that point your child is granted "all the blessings and burdens of being genuinely independent."
If your adult child is disabled, you might be responsible for continued child support payments, which can continue for an indefinite period. Under the Texas Family Code, Section 154.306, the court will weigh existing or future needs of the adult child, which are directly related to his mental or physical disability, the amount of care that parents or caretakers need to provide, the financial resources of both parents, and any other financial resources or programs available for the care of disabled adult children.
Procedure to Stop Child Support Payments
You begin the procedure to stop child support payments by contacting the Domestic Relations Office, or DRO at the family court in charge of your case at least 45 days before your obligation to pay child support comes to end. The DRO informs your Child Support Enforcement Officer of this action, who then reviews your case and notifies the parent who is receiving support payments on behalf of the child. The other parent has 15 days to object after notification that child support is ending.
Income Withholding vs. Direct Payments
In many instances, your child support payments are automatically handled through payroll deductions by your employer. In these cases, the DRO informs your employer to stop withholding income for child support payments, and then your account is closed. If you make child support payments directly to the other parent by check or via some other private arrangement, the DRO closes your account, if the other parent does not file an objection.
If you didn't make some of the child support payments that you were required to make, you are still obligated to pay those plus accrued interest -- even after your child turns 18 or graduates from high school. Under those circumstances, the DRO will require that you pay the total balance due immediately, or that you continue to make payments through employer withholding or privately before the DRO closes your account. If you don't believe you owe back payments, which are known as arrearages, notify your Enforcement Officer and the DRO might request a court hearing to settle the matter.