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My Child Is About to Turn 18. How Long Do I Keep Paying Child Support?

My Child Is About to Turn 18. How Long Do I Keep Paying Child Support?Divorce is difficult for everyone. The focus often needs to be on the youngest members of the family. Parents must put aside their own issues and ensure that their minor children are taken care of emotionally, physically, and financially. When a separation, annulment or divorce occurs between parents, child support can guarantee the continued care of any minor children. The best interest of the child comes first.

But what happens when the child is not a minor anymore – or won’t be, soon? What happens if your child is 18 but still in school, or over 18 but has special needs? Do you have to pay child support?

First, the basics: What is child support?

Child support payments are court-ordered payments usually made by a noncustodial parent to the custodial parent to support minor children. Child support is provided to pay for food, clothing, housing, schooling, toys, transportation, and anything else essential to child rearing.

How is child support arranged in Charlotte?

Per the North Carolina Judicial Branch, child support can be arranged in any of the following ways:

  • Parents can agree on an amount for child support in a Separation Agreement. A Voluntary Support Agreement is decided upon and signed by parents and a judge. Once this is signed, the child support agreement is enforceable.
  • Child support can also be arranged through the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSE). “Child Support Enforcement (CSE) is a national program established by Congress in 1975 to ensure that both parents are responsible for the support of their children to the best of their ability. This program, known in North Carolina as Child Support Services (CSS), provides CSS Servicesto the custodians of minor children regardless of income level.”
  • Child support can also be established through a civil court action by the custodial parent, an organization, or the guardian of a dependent child.
  • Another way to establish child support is through a Criminal Abandonment and Non-Support court action.
  • A divorce order that includes child support is another way to arrange child support.
  • A family attorney can guide parents on how to arrange child support.

Understand that child support in North Carolina is determined by the Child Support Guidelines, which uses a number of factors, including income as well as expenses, to calculate how much support should be paid. Though the calculations are standard, the amount of support is not; trying to figure it out on your own can end up costing your child later.

Frequently asked questions about Charlotte child support

What happens once my child reaches the age of 18?

Here is what the North Carolina Judicial Branch has to say:

Typically, parents are not required to pay child support once a child turns eighteen. However, if the child is still in high school after the age of eighteen, parents are required to continue paying support until the child graduates, stops attending school, fails academically, or turns twenty. Parents may also be responsible to support a child in a cooperative innovative high school (CIHS) program until the child turns eighteen or completes four years in the program.

In short, most child support orders will end at 18, though some may last longer depending on the unique circumstances of your child.

What if my child is about to turn 18 right after the divorce is set to finalize?

You still have to pay child support until your child turns 18. You just won’t have to pay it for very long.

What if my child graduates high school at 17?

You still have to pay child support in North Carolina until he or she reaches the age of 18.

What if my 18-year-old child has special needs?

Some children may be eligible to receive support after they turn 18, such as those with special needs. If this is the case, you must continue to pay.

Do I have to pay child support while my child is in college?

Only if it is a part of your agreement. So, if parents agree to support a child through college graduation,  the agreement is considered binding.

Is there any scenario where child support would end prior to my child turning 18?

There are three. If your child gets married, joins the military, or is granted emancipation, child support would terminate.

Will I need to pay any unpaid child support that is due after my child reaches eighteen or graduates from high school?

Any child support payments still owed after a child reaches eighteen and has graduated from high school will need to continue until they are fully paid. Otherwise, you will be in violation of your order and could face additional penalties.

Do I have to go back to court to end my child support payments?

Not if the order is fulfilled. If your child support order requires that you pay until the child turns 18, you do not need to return to court once your child reaches that age. The same is true if your child marries, joins the service, or is emancipated.

However, if there are other certain mitigating circumstances – for example, if you take a paternity test and discover the child is not yours – you will need to go to court to terminate support. Understand, however, that any other orders will also need to be modified. For example, if you use a paternity test to terminate child support, that same test can be used to terminate your child custody order, too. As such, if you believe yourself to be the father of that child, and raised that child as your own, you should think very carefully before you make your decision.

Do you need to create or modify child support in Charlotte? If so, the family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group can help your situation. Call our office at 704-321-0031, or submit our contact form to schedule an appointment today. We have offices in Charlotte, Weddington, Concord, and Boone to better serve our clients.