When can I stop paying child support?

In general, the obligation to provide child support begins with the child’s birth, including birth expenses, and ends upon adoption, termination of parental rights, emancipation (generally reaching 18 years of age), or death. It is good practice to include specifications determining exactly when the child support will terminate in the court order. Upon the death of a child, the child support payments will cease. Without a previous agreement, the death of a parent also ends that parent’s obligation to provide support.The rights and obligations to support of the natural parents are terminated upon the child’s adoption. In most circumstances, with the termination of parental rights, the duty to provide support to the child is dissolved, even if it remains in the best interest of the child to continue receiving financial support.A child support obligation may also be ended by several emancipating circumstances. These include the child becoming legally mature (18 yrs. old), entering into a legal marriage, becoming self-supportive, or enlisting in military service. A parent cannot unilaterally decide when the child has become emancipated, but rather must file a petition with the court. A child’s marriage will not always signify the child’s emancipation. If the parent has agreed to support the child until a later date or until an unmet condition (i.e. high school graduation, child’s 18th birthday), he/she will be obligated to continue providing support after the child’s marriage. Remarriage of a parent does not terminate the obligation to support a child. Also, without a court order, when a child begins to reside with the payer parent, the child support obligation does not automatically stop; the payor parent must petition the court for modification.A parent will generally have no obligation to support his/her child after the child reaches 18 yrs. of age, unless the parties previously agree that the support will end at a later date. A court can order support for a child beyond 18 years of age if the child is still dependent due to a physical or mental disability existing before the child turned 18. A court may also order continued support if the child is still in high school and has a reasonable chance of graduation before age 19. The court will look to the facts of each case in deciding whether or not a child is self supportive. If they conclude that the child is so, the parent’s duty to provide support will end.

Back to Child Support FAQs