Child support obligations are imposed to ensure that the custodial parent of a child has adequate means to provide for their child’s health and well-being. When child support is no longer necessary, either due to the age of the child or other circumstances, the child support obligation can be terminated without adversely affecting the child.
Termination at Age of Majority
Any agreement or order imposing a child support obligation should have a provision that states when the obligation will end. If it does not, state law generally defines how long a parent can be obligated to provide financially for his or her child. Except in cases where a child has special needs or it has been determined that a parent will pay for the child’s college education, child support orders generally terminate when a child reaches the age of majority or graduates from high school. The age of majority is defined by state, but is generally at least 18-years-old.
In some cases, a parent may have cause to request the court terminate a support order or agreement prior to the child reaching the age of majority. The procedures for petitioning a court for termination of a support order vary by state. In all states, however, it is important to continue paying any child support you are obligated to pay until the obligation is terminated to avoid being found in contempt and facing adverse consequences.
There are several circumstances that provide a basis for requesting a termination of a child support obligation. For example, if a parent’s parental rights have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, the parent can request his or her support obligation be terminated as well. In some cases, a modification in the living or financial situation of a child’s parents can be grounds for requesting a termination. For example, if the parents begin living together in the same house or get married, the parent who is obligated to provide support can request a termination of child support on the grounds that it is no longer necessary. If the parent providing support becomes incapacitated or unable to earn an income, he or she can request termination of the support order due to the fact he or she is no longer able to meet the support obligation. If the financial situation of either parent changes dramatically and they jointly agree that child support is no longer necessary, they can jointly petition the court to terminate the child support obligation.
A change in the child’s situation can be grounds for termination of child support as well. If the child is emancipated prior to the age of majority, the parent is no longer obligated to provide financial support for the child. If there is change in custody of the child, so that he or she no longer lives with the parent who was receiving child support, or now lives with the parent who was obligated to pay child support, the parent providing support can request a termination of the support order. Although it is unlikely to happen before the age of 18, if a child gets married or joins the military, neither parent will be obligated to provide financial support for the child and the parent subject to a support order can request a termination.