The End of Child Support - Age, Disability, College / by Cassandra Hearn

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Parents have a duty to support their children. After a divorce or separation, this duty to support will take the form of a child support order entered by the court. The court will take into account a variety of factors, including the income of both parents and the custody order, as well as some other expenses, and will order one parent to pay to the other a set sum each month to help provide for the child. When the child support obligation ends, however, can be a more complicated issue than some parents may think.

Many parents believe that child support will automatically terminate on the child’s eighteenth birthday. However, this is not necessarily true. In California, if a child is still enrolled in high school and living with the parent receiving support, then the paying parent’s support obligation does not end on the child’s eighteenth birthday. Instead, the child support obligation will continue until the child graduates from high school or turns nineteen, whichever happens first. If a child gets married, joins the military, or becomes emancipated, child support may also stop.

In the case of a child who is disabled, it is possible that child support may continue on past the age of nineteen. When a child has a physical or mental disability that makes it impossible for the child to support him or herself upon reaching adulthood, then child support may continue, in some cases indefinitely. In order for this to apply, the child must have been disabled before his or her eighteenth birthday. In other words, if the child becomes incapacitated after he or she turns eighteen, then this provision will not apply to require a parent to pay support. In a case in 2015, the California courts clarified that when child support continues into adulthood, then it is the adult child who is entitled to receive the support, not the parent. In that case, the court determined that the disabled adult who resided in an assisted living facility was entitled to receive the support instead of the custodial parent.

Parents may also hope that child support or mandatory college tuition payments are built into the child support system. In California, however, a parent cannot be ordered to continue to pay child support simply because a child has elected to go to college. However, parents are free to agree in a settlement agreement that one or both parents will be obligated to help support the child through college.

We have experience helping our clients understand the rights and obligations associated with child support. Call us today for an appointment at 619-800-0384 to talk about your child and your support order.