When Can Child Support Continue into Adulthood?

Child support payments typically end once the child reaches 18 years old. However, there are several exceptions to this. A few circumstances that may lead to additional child support payments past the age of eighteen include a child still in school, a child with special needs, and a parent who still owes past-due child support payments.

Special Circumstances

Child support payments are one of the most critical parts of any divorce agreement. Whether you are the paying parent or the receiving parent, make sure you are fully aware of all of the rules in place regarding your child support payments. That way, you won’t run into any nasty surprises along the way. Some of the more common circumstances that can lead to an extension of child support beyond age 18 include:

  • State laws on the age of majority
  • A child who is still in school
  • A child with special needs
  • Special Agreement
  • Back pay

State Laws on the Age of Majority

The age of majority is when the law determines that an individual has transitioned from being a child into being an adult. In most states, the age of majority is 18 years old. However, in some states, this age may be 19 or 21. Child support law typically states that child support will continue until the child reaches the age of majority.

A Child Who Is Still in School

Most children turn 18 while still in high school. In this case, if 18 is the age of majority in your state, child support will likely continue until the child graduates from high school or has their 19th birthday, whichever comes first. Some states also allow for extended child support beyond the age of majority if the child is pursuing their GED.

A child enrolled in college can lead to a wide range of different scenarios depending on the state where the child support is decided. In cases where child support does continue into college, the amount of payments often gets modified from the original child support agreement.

In some states, child support automatically continues past the age of majority if the child is enrolled in college. In others, it is up to the discretion of the judge whether to extend child support into college. The judge will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to continue support. California child support laws, along with the laws of several other states, specifically prohibit a judge from awarding child support payments that continue into college.

A Child With Special Needs

In cases involving a child with special needs, child support often continues past the age of majority. In cases like this, there is the possibility that child support payments will carry on indefinitely. If the child is never able to be self-dependent and requires parental care for their entire life, then child support payments will likely continue.

Special Agreement

For one reason or another, parents may reach an agreement to extend the child support agreement past the age of majority. While this is not especially common, it does happen, and the reasons are varied and often unique. The situation in which this is most seen is in states that don’t allow for child support rulings for children enrolled in college.

Back Pay

In situations where the paying parent has missed child support payments and still owes back payments once the child reaches the age of majority, they are not released from their obligation. The paying parent must continue sending money until the debt has been paid in full.

Child Support Agreements

Generally, the purpose of child support payments is to provide the children with consistency and allow their lives to continue as close as possible to how they would have gone had their parents stayed together. So, for the most part, states take this into consideration when deciding on child support past the age of majority the same as they do when deciding on child support payments for a young child.

In situations where a child likely would receive financial support from their parents past the age of majority had the parents stayed together (like in the case of a child with special needs), child support payments are likely to continue. Some of those judgments are easy to make at the time of the original child support agreement. But others become more evident later on, and child support agreements that extend past the age of majority often need to be reevaluated once the child has reached that age.