When a court orders a parent to pay child support, that support order generally continues until the child reaches the age of 18. However, in some situations, the court can order the parent to maintain payments longer than this. Child support laws are state-specific, so consult an attorney in your area for advice about the situation if you are being told to pay support after a child has grown.
Child Support Orders
When a court issues a child support order, the paying parent must continue to make payments for as long as ordered. Unless the court agrees to an early termination or otherwise modifies its order before the termination of payments, the child support order remains in effect for as long as the court requires, even if the payments continue past the child's 18th birthday. However, a parent has the right to petition the court for a modification of child support if the parent believes and can show a significant change in circumstances.
High School Graduation
In some states, child support orders continue until the child either reaches 18 or graduates from high school. For example, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in California, the court may order the parent to continue to pay child support until the child reaches 18. However, if the child reaches 18 while still in school, the parent must pay until the child graduates from high school. Child support payments for children over 18 continue until the child turns 19 or graduates high school, whichever occurs first.
If a parent is paying child support for a child with disabilities, those payments might continue past the child's 18th birthday. For example, Minnesota Statutes section 518.54(2) states that, for purposes of child support, a child is any person under 18, or a person under 20 still attending secondary school, or a person who is not capable of self-support because of a physical or mental condition.
In some child support situations, the parents might agree to continued support after the child becomes grown, even if the court has not ordered it. For example, a parent might agree to provide child support payments to the other parent if the child is attending college.
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