One party is usually required to pay child support to the other party by court order. The court order usually will set out the timing of payments, the amounts of payments, and when the payments end. Court ordered child support usually ends when one of the following happens:
- The child marries or registers a domestic partnership
- The child dies
- The child is emancipated (which means the child either obtained a court order that the child is able to live independently, or the child lives outside the home and provides necessary support for himself or herself)
- The child turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student; or
- The child turns 19
The first of the above events to occur triggers the end of child support obligation. However, if the child suffers from a disability that prevents him or her from supporting himself or herself, the court can order that both parents are required to continue to support the disabled adult child, regardless of the fact that the child may be over the age of 18.
Of course, parents may agree to support the child longer, but are not required to do so (again, unless ordered by the court to support a disabled adult child). The parent who had been paying child support generally is not required to pay for a college education or college expenses for the child, regardless of that parent’s income.
The court order or final judgment which imposed the child support obligation normally includes language terminating child support automatically upon the occurrence of one of the above events. If the order or judgment does not include such language, the parent paying child support may have to file a motion with the court asking that the parent be released from the child support obligation.