Many people who are subject to a child support order wonder if they can automatically stop making payments once the child reaches the age of 18. Parents who receive support payments have this question as well, because they often pay many of their children’s expenses as they attend college. The answer is not always simple and depends on a number of factors.
Generally, court-ordered child support must be paid until a child reaches the age of 18, is legally emancipated or becomes married. The support obligation may also terminate if the child joins the armed forces or passes away. However, support may continue if a child is 18 years old and is still in high school, performing in good faith and reasonably expects to graduate before his or her 19th birthday. It may also continue beyond a child’s 18th birthday if the child is mentally or physically disabled and the disability prevents the child from being self-supportive. There is no statutory requirement in Florida to pay child support once a child is in college.
With that said, it is important to understand the terms of your order, for it provides the details courts will rely upon in the future should you seek to modify your support obligation. This is especially important with support orders involving multiple children. As one child reaches the age of majority (age 18), support amount should be modified to fit the needs of the remaining minor children. The support order must also have language addressing the child’s health care needs, as many employer-sponsored plans allow children up to age 24 to remain on their parents’ plans.
Further, other circumstances may affect your modification motion even though fewer children are being considered. The court may consider substantial changes in income, as well as the remaining children’s needs in creating a new support order. As such, a support reduction is not guaranteed even though there is one less child to support.
If you have questions about child support or support modifications, an experienced family law attorney can advise you.