When do you stop paying child support for older children?

If you are a noncustodial parent, you may have been paying child support since you and your ex-spouse finalized your divorce. The purpose of these payments is to assist the custodial parent in raising the children to adulthood. This means that at some point, the financial support must come to an end.  

As your children move from adolescence to young adulthood, it is time to start thinking about ending your support payments. Your situation must meet specific requirements, and there is a process to making it official.

How old must your child be to cease payments?

Generally speaking, when your child reaches the age of 18, you no longer have to send child support to your ex-spouse. However, if the child has not yet finished high school, payments must continue until after graduation, unless he or she turns 19 before then. Because most children are already of age when they complete school, it is more useful to think of high school graduation as the end date, rather than the child’s 18 birthday.

Are there any special exceptions?

In some cases, your child may achieve a marker of independence that negates the necessity of child support. For example, if your child moves out or marries prior to finishing high school, you might be able to cease support payments. Other situations include emancipation or military enlistment.

Additionally, if you fall behind, you still must pay the past due amount, regardless of your child’s age. This continues until you satisfy the entire debt.

What is the procedure to end child support?

In order to officially lift the obligation of child support, you must submit a motion to the court that states your case. If your child is of age, you may be able to send in the paperwork with documents that show he or she is now an adult. Some situations may require you to appear before a judge.

As your children get older, you can start preparing to end your child support payments. If your son or daughter continues to live with your ex-spouse beyond the age of 18, you may elect to continue payments, but that is entirely up to you, based on your child’s specific circumstances.