Whether your child is nearing 18 or just starting preschool, understanding whether you will continue to receive child support after she graduates can help you make good decisions about her future. In most states, there are provisions that require a non-custodial parent to continue to pay child support throughout post-secondary education. However, in some states, child support payments terminate once a child reaches a certain age.
Termination at Graduation
In some states, child support terminates when a child graduates from high school. However, there is usually an age past which support will not be mandated. For example, non-custodial parents in Georgia can continue to receive support as long as the child is in high school, but not past age 20. In other states, such as Arkansas, children can continue to receive support after they graduate from high school as long as they are under 18. Other states simply mandate that child support cease when the child is no longer a minor; the age of majority is either 18 or 21, depending on the state.
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Child Support and College
In some states, non-custodial parents must continue to pay child support after high school graduation if the child is enrolled in college. For example, in Missouri, support payments continue until age 22 if the child is going to post-secondary school. In other states, the non-custodial parent may be ordered to pay part of the cost for college and other expenses depending on the situation. In Maryland, for instance, the court decides whether terminating the support would be "unjust or inappropriate" before doing so, considering college costs in that decision.
In some instances, states may order the termination of child support for other reasons. For example, if a child is legally emancipated, then some states will discontinue child support. In other states, a child must be going to school full-time for the custodial parent to receive payments after the child has reached the age of majority. In most states, the child support amount can be modified if circumstances drastically change, like the custodial or non-custodial parent experiences a change in income.
Finding Your State's Laws
The first place to look for information about child support payments is your court order, which is presented to both custodial or non-custodial parents and includes all the details of the child support case. In addition, you can contact your state's family law department or visit the National Conference of State Legislatures website to learn more about child support laws in your state.