Most parents want to support their children to the best of their ability, but also plan to stop supporting their children at some point and allow them to become independent adults. In some cases, divorced couples disagree on when exactly is the proper time to stop supporting their children, and this can lead to disagreements on when child support payments should end. Whether you're a custodial or non-custodial parent, here's what you need to know about when child support payments are supposed to end.
It's Not Always At Age 18
It's a common misconception that a noncustodial parent's financial obligations end when the child reaches the age of 18, which is the age of majority in most (but not all) states. However, this is not always the case.
Often, non-custodial parents are required to pay child support until the child turns 18 or until the child graduates from high school. Some states may require the non-custodial parent to pay child support while the child is in college, or to contribute a specific percentage of the child's college expenses.
Parents can also specify a cut-off date or college contribution agreement in a divorce decree, as long as it meets or exceeds the legal minimum standards of child support set by the state. In New Jersey, there is no specific age or event that automatically means that child support must be terminated, so a termination date or event must be listed in the child support order.
When a non-custodial parent is responsible for paying child support for multiple children, the parent usually can simply reduce payments when one child reaches the age of majority. Unless there is already a legal agreement in place, parents may have to go to court to have the child support payments recalculated when one child becomes ineligible to receive child support payments.
Depending on the financial circumstances of each parent, and the needs of the children that are still dependent, it's not a given that child support payments will decrease just because one child has reached the age of majority or is no longer eligible for child support. In some cases, support payments may increase – for example, if the non-custodial parent has had a major increase in income since the last time support was calculated, or if a minor dependent has developed significant medical needs since the last time support was calculated.
Special Needs Children
Parents may be obligated to provide support for a physically or mentally disabled child even if the child is past the age of majority or has graduated from high school. Like most other child support issues, the exact laws vary by state. However, most states allow the courts to set some support requirements for parents of dependent disabled adults if the parents do not already have a legal agreement concerning support.
If you're unsure about when or whether your child support payments will terminate, or if you're having second thoughts about a termination agreement or order that's already in place, a family law attorney can help you clarify or change the child support order that you have in place.
To learn more, contact a company like Jones Auger & Auger with any questions you have.