End of Duty to Pay Child Support

End of Duty to Pay Child Support
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Last updated: October 2015

When does my duty to pay child support end?

When a court orders you to pay child support, the end date is usually on the order. However, many times the child support order does not include an end date. If your child support order doesn’t list a date of termination, you must keep paying child support until a judge issues a court order that ends your duty to pay. If you simply stop paying without a judge’s order, you risk being held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support. 

It is important that you only stop paying child support after the end date listed on the child support order or after a judge issues an order that ends your duty to pay child support.

Note that if you are behind on child support (in other words you have child support “arrearage” or are “delinquent” in paying child support), you will likely have to continue making payments until you have paid off the amount. You also may be required to pay interest.

How is the child support end date determined?

A judge decides the termination date on a child support order based on when the law considers the child to be “emancipated.” A child is emancipated when:

  1. He or she turns 18; or
  2. Before reaching age 18, a judge issues an order emancipating him or her (see below).
When can my child be considered emancipated before reaching the age of 18?

A judge may issue an order emancipating a child before he or she is 18. This can happen if:

  • The child gets married
  • The child joins the military
  • The child gets a job and no longer requires his or her parents’ support
  • The child moves out on his or her own and wants to be independent

The following acts are usually not enough for a judge to legally emancipate a child:

  • The child drops out of school
  • The child has a baby
  • The child receives public assistance

Remember, don't stop paying child support just because your child performs a legal act of emancipation. Before you can actually stop paying, you must have a judge issue a court order that ends your duty to pay child support.

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

Yes. A judge can order you to pay child support for an adult child. There are three situations where child support can be ordered, even 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 (see below)
What can be considered educational expenses for an adult child?

Educational expenses for an adult child can be for college or for professional or other training after graduation from high school. They can also include expenses for attending high school if the child is still in high school at the age of 19. Examples of educational expenses for adult children are: 

  • Room and board
  • Tuition and other dues
  • Transportation
  • Books
  • Miscellaneous fees
  • Registration fees
  • Application fees
  • Medical expenses, including medical insurance
  • Living expenses during the school year and periods of recess

You will probably pay child support for your adult child directly to your child, to the other parent, or to the school.

The judge should consider your income and expenses when deciding how much you should give for educational expenses. The judge should also consider the other parent’s and your child’s income and expenses. Since support for adult children is not required, judges do not have to follow the mandatory guidelines that apply to child support for minor children.

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

Child support orders for two or more children are usually not broken into amounts for each child. Instead, judges typically set a single dollar amount to be paid for all of the children combined.

Your child support order may include a date that ends support for an older child once he or she becomes emancipated. If your child support order does not include such a date, you must have a judge issue a court order that ends your duty to pay support for your older child. Until a judge issues an order, you should continue to pay child support for all of your children, even if your older child has become emancipated.

Once a judge terminates your duty to pay support for your older child, most likely you will have to continue paying child support for your younger child or children.

In general, how do I modify or terminate my child support order? 

Changing the amount of child support you pay requires you to ask a judge to change or end your duty to pay. To ask for a court order from a judge you must:

  1. File a "Motion to Modify or Terminate Child Support" with the circuit clerk;
  2. Set the motion for a court hearing; and
  3. Send a copy of the motion and the notice of the court hearing date to the other parent or to the other parent’s attorney.

You will then need to go to court on the hearing date. At the hearing you present evidence to the judge explaining why your duty to pay child support should be changed or ended. If the judge is persuaded by the evidence that you present, he or she will issue a court order that changes the amount of child support you are required to pay or that ends your duty to pay child support all together.

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