Does Child Support End?

A courtroom. The judge's seat is empty

Circumstances When Payments May Cease

It is the duty of a parent to support their children regardless of marital status, yet there are circumstances when child support payments may be terminated. Should one of these conditions be met, the obligor will no longer be required to make child support payments. Read on to learn what these circumstances are.

Age of Majority

According to the California Family Code, a child support order ends when the supported child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 years old. This is due to the fact that child support orders are meant to support minor children, so once a child reaches 18 years of age, they are no longer a minor. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including the following additional factors:

  • An out-of-state child support order enforced by California may extend beyond age 18.
  • If a child is still attending high school and turns age 18, a child support order remains in effect until they either graduate high school or turn 19 years old (whichever occurs first).
  • If a child turns 18 yet is incapacitated and unable to earn any sort of living for whatever reason, then a child support order may continue. Orders related to this circumstance are not made based on the child’s age but rather their condition.

Additionally, it is possible for parents to come to a mutual agreement to extend child support payments beyond the age of majority. The California Family Code allows for such an agreement to exist and be enforceable by the courts.

Emancipation of a Minor Child

In addition, child support payments may cease should a minor child gain emancipation. Emancipation is defined as a person who is viewed as over the age of majority, even if their actual age is less than 18 years old; one of the following factors must also be present in the person’s life:

  • The person has filed for a declaration of emancipation and has gained that status under California law.
  • The person is an active duty member of the United States Armed Forces.
  • The person has legally married, regardless of whether or not the marriage is still intact.

The California Family Code outlines the requirements for a person to petition for emancipation as well as the various purposes for which an emancipated person will be viewed as an adult. Should a minor become emancipated and legally viewed as an adult, the child’s parents will no longer be obliged to maintain their child support payments.

Consulting a Family Law Attorney with Child Support Questions

Child support matters can be difficult to navigate on one’s own, especially if questions linger about the status of their payments and if their circumstances might allow for a modification or even termination of their child support order. For answers to these questions, consult with a family law attorney who understands California’s child support laws and can guide you on how best to proceed.

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