When will my child support payments end?

Being a parent is a lifelong role. But it is also a role that changes constantly. Parental duties and responsibilities can shift considerably as a child grows and his or her needs change. Depending on the age of a child, a parent may need to be a provider, disciplinarian, coach, mentor, caretaker, cook, chauffeur, advocate, protector and financial adviser on any given day.

While parents are in that role indefinitely, there are some aspects of parenting that do end. For example, parents who support their children financially through child support payments are generally not required to make these payments forever. It can be important to know when the obligation to pay child support typically ends so that parents who send and receive this money know what to expect.

Broadly speaking, child support payments will continue until a child turns 18. There are several exceptions to this deadline, however.

As noted in this article, child support payments may end sooner than that if:

  • A child emancipates, meaning he or she is legally free from the authority of his or her parents
  • Custody schedules change in such a way that the parent making payments has significantly more parenting time and may be considered a custodial parent
  • A child gets married
  • A child enters the military
  • A child passes away
  • A court order is issued that sets a different date for the end of the child support obligation

Alternatively, child support payments may continue past the time a child turns 18 if:

  • He or she is in high school, in which case payments can continue until the age of 19
  • A child has special needs that require care past the age of 18
  • Parents agree that child support should continue. For example, if a child is in college and parents want to continue payments for educational expenses
  • A parent neglects to file a request to have the payments ended, as they don't expire automatically

Should any of these factors be in place, payments will typically be affected. Too many parents make the mistake of just accepting payment schedules without asking questions or making an effort to understand their rights. Rather than run the risks of overpaying or missing payments, it can be crucial for parents to be clear on their financial responsibilities.

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