How Long Must Child Support Be Paid?

Supporting your children, both financially and emotionally, may be a lifelong endeavor for most. But when the legal obligation to pay child support is at issue, many wonder when the courts are out of the picture.

Absent unusual circumstances, child support generally continues until the child reaches the age of majority. Depending on what state you live in, the legal age of majority of your child will vary. For example, Alabama considers those 18-years-of-age and older to be legal adults in the eyes of the law, but Mississippi recognizes anyone under the age of 21 to be a minor.

In other words, your child remains a minor – and child support also is required to continue – until they either graduate from high school or turn 18, whichever is later.

Court-Ordered College Tuition

Some states allow for the courts to require parents to pay for college support. The courts may order support for a child’s college education. College support may be required in addition to child support in certain instances.

Even if a state doesn’t allow the courts to require additional educational support, parents may choose to include a college tuition provision in the child support agreement. The educational provisions listed in the parental agreement should generally define who pays for expenses, such as tuition, room and board, travel expenses, textbooks and living expenses.

Special Needs and Disability

When the child has special needs, courts might order child support payments to continue beyond the age of majority. Court-ordered child support also may be extended when the child is mentally or physically disabled.


If a minor child has proven to the courts that they can live away from the family home and support themselves, then they may be granted emancipation from their parents. Minor children may request emancipation through the courts before they have reached their state’s age of majority. Common reasons for emancipation include joining the military or getting married.

Emancipation in and of itself means that a minor has proven that they no longer need their parent’s financial support. If a child has become emancipated, a child support obligation may be modified or terminated, depending on the circumstances.

Process for Terminating Child Support

Don’t just stop making payments on your child support on your child’s 18th birthday. Because it is part of a court order, a formal request to the court is generally required. The paying parent first needs to make a formal request to terminate child support payments citing the reason as the child reached the age of majority. Formally requesting to terminate required payments also is required if a child has become emancipated.

Child Support Modifications

You may be searching for information on ending your obligation to make child support payments due to financial hardship. Child support modifications are common, especially when a party’s financial circumstances have substantially changed. Modifications to child support agreements, however, do not terminate the paying parent’s financial obligation.

A local family law attorney to guide you through this process on whether you qualify to be able to terminate or modify your child support.

Speak to an Experienced Child Support Attorney Today

This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified child support lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local child support attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.

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