End of Duty to Pay Child Support

End of Duty to Pay Child Support
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Last updated: January 2012

When does my duty to pay child support end?

Illinois requires that child support orders give the date when a parent's duty to pay support ends.

You may have to keep paying even though your child has turned 18 if your order does not give an end date. You could go to court and have the order formally ended. You risk violating your support order if you stop making payments without a court order.

How is the child support end date determined?

Support shall continue until the "emancipation" of the child. Emancipation is usually when the child turns 18. At that age a child is legally an adult.

Emancipation can happen before turning 18 if the child desires to stop relying on a parent's support. A child may be considered emancipated if any of the following happens:

  • The child gets married
  • The child joins the military
  • The child gets a job and no longer requires their parent’s support
  • The child moves out on their own and wants to be independent

The following acts do not automatically emancipate a child:

  • The child drops out of school
  • The child has a baby
  • The child receives public assistance
Can I stop paying child support if my child turns 18 and is still in high school?

Possibly. If a child will still be in high school when they turn 18, the law says that support should be paid until either:

  • The child graduates from high school, or
  • The child turns 19

If your order clearly says that your child support ends on the child’s 18th birthday, you are entitled to rely on it and stop paying support.

Your ex-spouse could go back to court and ask a judge to extend your child support obligation. If the child is still in high school, that request would almost certainly be granted, since the law supports providing child support to children until they graduate or until they turn 19.

Can I be ordered to pay child support for an adult child?

Yes. Child support for an adult child is "discretionary," which means that it is up to the judge to decide. There are three situations where the law says support can be ordered after the child turns 18:

  • The child is attending high school and has not yet turned 19
  • The child is mentally or physically disabled
  • The child has educational expenses

Those educational expenses could be for college, or for “professional or other training after graduation from high school.” They could even be for attending high school after age 19.

Examples of expenses for adult children are:

  • Room/board
  • Dues/tuition
  • Transportation/books/fees
  • Registration/application costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Living expenses during the school year and periods of recess

Support for adult children can be paid to the child, to either parent, or to the school.

Your income and expenses should be considered. The other parent’s and your child’s income should also be considered. Since support for adult children is not required, judges awarding support do not have to follow mandatory guidelines that apply to support for minor children. That means you could pay less in child support.

Can I pay less child support if my duty to support one of my children ended? 

Any reduction in child support is a change that requires a judge's approval. You can't just reduce the amount you pay on your own.

If there is only one child, or only one child you are left paying support for, then you can stop paying support on the termination date given in your support order. 

A judge’s permission is required to change the amount you pay if there are two or more children.

Child support orders for two or more children are usually not broken into amounts for each child. Instead, they usually set a single dollar amount to be paid for all the children combined. In that situation, you cannot decide on your own to pay less for support once one child becomes an adult. You are required to keep paying until the order is changed by a judge, unless your support order says you can reduce your support. 

How do I modify my child support order when my duty to support one of my children ended? 

Changing the order requires going back to court. You have to file a request to modify the child support amount and have a court hearing. The judge will issue a new child support order if the judge is persuaded that a change is necessary. 

Your child support payments may not change even though you will be paying support for one less child. The support guidelines are based on a percentage of your net income. That amount could be higher if your net income has gone up since the previous support order was made.

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