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If you're under orders to pay child support, can you automatically stop paying when your child turns 18? This question has come up recently in our FindLaw Answers family law discussion forum. The answer isn't as simple as it may seem. In fact, before going any further you may want to download FindLaw's free guide to getting child support payments.
State laws determine when a parent or guardian can automatically stop paying child support. Many states allow a parent to stop payment upon a child's 18th birthday, or when a child graduates high school, whichever occurs later.
But that's not the case with all child support orders. Here are some factors that may affect whether you can stop paying child support when your kid turns 18:
The terms of your support order. Your court order may explicitly allow you to stop paying once your child turns 18, or reaches some other significant life event.
How many children are subject to the support order. If your order covers only one child, automatic termination upon graduating high school or turning 18 may be allowed by your state's laws. But if your order covers more than one child, you will likely have to seek a court order to modify your support payments.
How much you're ordered to pay per child. For child support orders affecting multiple children, the terms of your order may specify how much money you're paying per child -- for example, $300/month for each of three children. If so, you may be able to reduce payments accordingly. But if you're paying a lump sum for more than one child, you generally must keep paying the full amount until a court approves your request to modify your payments.
Parental income & the needs of your other children. Modifying child support when a child turns 18 is similar to any other request to modify child support. A court will generally consider both parents' current incomes, and the needs of any remaining minor children.
But based on new factors, a new calculation could actually result in higher child support payments, even with one less child to support.
Still have questions and need some face time? You can always find a great local attorney to test out some calculations and see if a child support modification is in your best interest when your child turns 18.