Typically, child support payments end when a child turns 18. However, this is not always the case, which means that both parents should understand how and when support payments may be terminated. In some cases, support may not end until a child reaches the age of 21, or it may be extended if the child has special needs or has not yet graduated from high school upon turning 18.
It is possible that a parent may be required to make payments to help with college expenses. State law may require this or it may be part of a child support agreement between the parents. Support payments may cease if a child is declared emancipated from his or her parents. Emancipation may occur if a child gets married, joins the armed forces or is otherwise declared self-sufficient even if this occurs before the child reaches the age of majority.
It is important to note that child support payments do not automatically stop. A parent must take action to terminate upon the child reaching the age of majority or becoming emancipated. If at any time a parent has trouble making payments, it may be possible to have a child support order modified.
Legal counsel may be helpful for parents who are seeking a child support order or a support modification. An attorney may be able to prove paternity or otherwise take steps necessary to have an order entered into the record. Until an order is entered, a parent may not be liable for payments, and parents may be liable for following any order that is in effect until a modification is approved by a judge.