When Does Child Support End?

When does child support end is a question asked by many women as they face the prospect of their children leaving home.

By WomansDivorce | Answers by Brette Sember, J.D.

How long child support lasts depends on the state where the support order was issued and the specific circumstances of the case. In general, child support obligations typically end when the child reaches the age of majority, which is usually 18 years old. However, there can be variations and exceptions. Here are a few common scenarios:

  • Reaching the age of majority: Child support obligations often end when the child reaches the age of majority. This is 18 in most states. Some states extend child support beyond 18 if the child is still in high school. In such cases, support may continue until the child completes their education or reaches a specific age, such as 19 or 21. At that point, the child is considered legally independent, and the responsibility for financial support typically ends. The exact requirements and conditions for extended support vary from state to state. 

  • Continuation of education: In some states, child support may be extended past the age of majority if the child is attending college. This generally requires both parents to agree to the extended support and have it included in the support order. 

  • The child becomes emancipated: The term emancipation means the parents give up control over making legal decisions for their child and the child no longer relies on the parents for financial support. A child can become emancipated by obtaining the court’s permission, joining the military, or getting married. 

  • The special needs of the child: In situations where a child has special needs or disabilities, child support may continue indefinitely or be extended beyond the usual age of majority. This ensures that the child's ongoing care and support are adequately provided for. 

  • Death of the child or obligated parent: Child support ends upon the death of the supported minor child. Support will generally also cease if the parent paying child support dies, unless previous provisions were made for continuing child support. 

When Does Child Support End - FAQs

Are you wondering what factors end the child support obligation or how your child's military enlistment or college attendance will affect child support? A lot will depend on what was written into your divorce decree and if your state would consider your child emancipated. The following FAQs answer these and many other questions:

When does child support end?

Terry's Question: My son will turn 18 next month. Will I stop receiving child support at that time, even though he is still in high school and living at home with me? At what point does my ex's obligation end?

Brette's Answer: Check your court order. In most states child support continues past age 18 if the child is still living at home and attending high school. You can also contact the child support agency for assistance in determining the child support end date.

Can I drop the child support if I get back together with my ex?

Michelle's Question: My children's father and I have decided to get back together and possibly move in together. Can I drop the current child support? Am I able to re-file for child support if our relationship goes south in the future and we discontinue our relationship?

Brette's Answer: Child support orders should be officially canceled by the court. If not, he could continue to be liable and owe back support. You can re-file if you break up again.

Will child support end if I get remarried?

Autumn's Question: If I get remarried to another man does my child support end, or can my ex stop paying it?

Brette's Answer: Neither. He can seek to modify it is your household income has changed though.

How do I find out if support ends when my child turns 18?

Faith's Question: How do I know if my child support will end when my child turns 18? Who do I contact?

Brette's Answer: If it is collected by your state child collection support unit, call them. Otherwise, consult your court order.

Does back child support end when the child turns 18?

Ann's Question: I don't have a question, just a comment. After a child turns 18, IF the dad is behind on child support, he still has to pay. I think it is misleading to say the non-custodial parent doesn't have to pay after 18.

Brette's Answer: Child support ends at 18 in most states (it is important to check with an attorney because it may continue to 21 or as long as a child is in school). Arrears (unpaid back child support) continue to be due even if regular child support ends.

Will child support end if my son drops out of school?

Karen's Question: Does my husband have to continue paying child support if his son drops out of school?

Brette's Answer: It depends on whether your son becomes emancipated (living independently).

How will it affect support if my disabled son gets his GED?

Tracy's Question: Does child support end if your child is 16 and disabled and has been in a home hospital program for school for two years because he cannot attend a public school! He's bed ridden most of the day. He's thinking about getting his GED so he doesn't have a teacher come to the house anymore! Would the child support end if he gets his GED (but I will obviously still have to care for him until who knows when)?

Brette's Answer: You need to talk to your attorney because your order may state if the child is not in school support ends. You will want to modify your order to continue.​

Does child support end if the child is home schooled?

Mandy's Question: Does child support end if a child is home schooled. The child is 10 years old.

Brette's Answer: No, child support does not end if the child is homeschooled. That has no impact on child support.

Will child support stop if the child joins the military?

Sabrina's Question: If my son joins the army after high school, will I have to pay child support at that point?

Brette: No. Joining the armed forces is emancipation and child support ends. Consult your lawyer about the details of your case and your state law.

Is child support owed if the child joins the National Guard at 17?

Nivia's Question: I was 17 and still in school when I joined the National Guard. Did I become emancipated? If so, does my father still have to continue paying child support for me?

Brette's Answer: It depends. If you went to boot camp, you probably were emancipated during that period, but if you moved back in with your parent, you may have become un-emancipated. It depends on whether the National Guard paid you a stipend and what kind of support it provided and what kind of support you relied upon from your parents. It may also depend on whether they were in agreement with you joining. There's no clear cut answer here and it would be up to a court to consider all the circumstances and make a ruling.

Can he quit paying support if his 17 year old son goes to college?

Victoria's Question: My boyfriend is paying child support on his 17 year old son. His son told him that he has gotten a full scholarship to college and will be living on campus. Will his child support then stop since the mother will not be providing anything for this child?

Brette's Answer: No. Even a child on a full scholarship requires financial support since the scholarship covers only the cost of the education and not the other necessities. Good luck.

Does support continue thru college if I'm paying for her housing?

Sandra's Question: I receive $100 per wk. for child support per our divorce papers. I'm going to buy a trailer and let my daughter stay there for free. I provide her food; pay her bills, her auto insurance, etc. My ex has said he will not pay child support anymore because she doesn't live with me. She will start college in the fall and he is supposed to pay support thru 2 years of college. My divorce papers say he has to pay until my child marries, becomes self-supportive, or dies. I think he still has to pay, am I correct?

Brette's Answer: Based on what you've said, it sounds like it. Good luck

Can child support be reinstated when she goes back to college?

Lisa's Question: My daughter had to drop her college classes because she is going to be deployed. Child support enforcement told me she would no longer receive child support because she was not in college, even though it was not by choice. What, if anything, can I do to appeal this if they say she is no longer entitled to child support even when she goes back to college?

Brette's Answer: Usually enlistment in the armed services means the child is emancipated and the child support obligation ends.

Does child support stop if the child gets pregnant?

Destanie's Question: Does the father still have to pay support if the daughter (who is 17) gets pregnant? What about whenever she has the baby?

Brette's Answer: The answer depends on whether the daughter has become emancipated - moved out and is independent. If she still is being supported by her parents, child support is still paid.

Does child support end if the child moves out?

Jessica's Question: My stepdaughter was recently pregnant at 17 and will be 18 soon. The baby died and now she no longer goes to school. She plans on getting her GED and moving out. When does child support end and is my husband still obligated for child support if she does this?

Brette's Answer: Once she is emancipated (living on her own) child support is no longer due. He needs to get the order changed though to reflect that.

Will my support automatically resume if my son moves back home?

Laura's Question: In my divorce papers, my ex pays $1000 a month child support for my son until he is 21, unless my son moves out, then my ex pays $600 a month to my son.  My son moved to Wilmington, NC for 5 months and didn't like it and has now moved back home with me.  Does my support automatically go back to $1000 a month until he is 21 because he has moved back?

Brette's Answer:  You need to consult an attorney in your state to determine if he’s still considered emancipated at this point.

Do I still owe support if my child gets married?

V's Question: I've been paying child support for over 13 years now for two of my boys. One of them is now married and has a kid, the other one still in high school. Do I still have to pay the full amount or can I fight to cut it in half?

Brette's Answer: You need to get the order modified. When a child marries, they become emancipated; therefore you would no longer owe child support for him.

Does the support obligation end if the custodial parent dies?

Renee's Question: My boyfriend’s ex just recently passed away and he was paying her child support. What happens to the payments now and where do they go? What should he do?

Brette's Answer: He doesn't need to do anything. The obligation ends with her death. If he does not obtain custody of his child he may end up having to pay whomever has legal custody of the child moving forward though.

Is the child entitled to child support if the custodial parent died?

Tara's Question: My mother passed away two years ago. She was receiving child support from my father, and had a debit card that the money went onto. After she passed away, the card got shut off. Am I entitled to the child support that was on the card and until I turned 18? I am pretty sure that he owes back child support as well. I'm living on my own and don't have a job. I need the money for clothing and food.

Brette's Answer: Since I'm assuming you are your mother's heir, you ought to inherit the money, in addition to being able to sue for any back support which is owed. If you aren't her heir, the money technically belongs to your mom's estate and the person inheriting the estate will get the money. On another note, if you haven't yet turned 18, your father is still obligated to support you and I'm assuming custody would have reverted back to him. However, it sounds as though you are emancipated since you're living on your own. In that case, he doesn't have any responsibility to help you financially. Have you thought about trying to talk to him and patch things up? You should get in touch with your state's social services or department of family and children and ask them if there are any programs which can help you.

Does child support go to the child if she becomes emancipated?

Jen's Question: I'm currently getting child support with arrears included. My youngest daughter was told by her father to get emancipated, and the child support would go directly to her. Is this true?

Brette's Answer: When a child becomes emancipated, no child support is due - to the parent or the child.

Do I still have to pay support if my child dies?

Daniela's Question: Do I still have to pay child support after the death of my child?

Brette's Answer: No. Child support continues only while the child is alive.

Does he have to pay support for a deceased child?

Jennifer's Question: My husband was previously married and they had a daughter who is now deceased. Now his ex has reported that he didn't pay child support. She said the courts said he owes $15,000. Does he have to pay support for a deceased child?

Brette's Answer: If there was a valid child support order in place and he did not pay it, he would still owe the arrears from the child's lifetime. He should get an attorney and get an actual copy of enforcement paperwork.

I'm still receiving payments after child support should have stopped.

Question: I am still receiving child support payments and they should have stopped 6 months ago. What do I do? I do not have any contact with my ex. Any advice is appreciated.

Brette's Answer: First I would be sure you're right. Check with your attorney. You may be getting arrears. If you are getting this in error, your attorney can contact your ex or his or her attorney about it.

Copyright WomansDivorce.com | Updated June 30, 2023


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