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Child Support Ends at Age 18? Think Again

Traditionally, child support obligations end when the child becomes 18 years of age (specifically, on the child’s eighteenth birthday). However, under some circumstances, it may be necessary to extend child support beyond that time. A child’s current school or educational status (for instance, if a child is attending higher education) or a child’s physical or mental status (e.g., if the child has a disability or mental or physical condition) may make extending child support a viable option or even a necessity. When can child support be extended? These elements must be present:

Both Parties Agree

Both parties must agree to extend child support payments. This means an individual concerned about being railroaded into paying child support for longer than he or she anticipated need not worry; child support will only be extended with his or her consent. Both parties’ consent is an integral part of the petition to the court, which is needed to make the extension.

The Child Is Dependent

In order to extend child support payments, the court must find the child to be dependent. This typically means that the child lives at home, relies on his or her parents for financial aid and care, etc. The court will apply the statutory definition of dependency to make this determination. If the child is not dependent on one or both parents, the extension cannot be lawfully granted.

The Extension Does Not Go Beyond The Child’s High School Graduation

Child support can be extended, but not indefinitely. The extension cannot go beyond the child’s high school graduation. In addition, the child must be scheduled to graduate from high school before the age of 19 (i.e., the child must be eligible to graduate and participating in schooling in a way that demonstrates a good faith effort reasonably indicative of graduation at the predicted time). The logic with this rule is that the goal of child support is to contribute to the raising of a child, not to distribute payment to adults.

Child Support Extension Requests Must Be Made in Advance

The 2015 case of Larwa v. Department of Revenue clarifies that child support extension requests must be made before the child is emancipated and turns 18. If the request is made after that time, the court cannot order an extension of child support, even if the family is otherwise eligible. This is true even if the child has a mental or physical disability that renders them legally incapacitated. However, the possibility that a child who is emancipated but also legally incapacitated can petition the court on his or her own volition or through the help of a guardian (if he or she has one) remains open.

Child support does not typically extend beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday. If a child support extension makes sense for you or for you family, you will need to petition the court. If you or your ex-spouse is interested in extending child support payments beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday, the assistance of an experienced family lawyer can help. Call Schwartz | White in Boca Raton at 561-391-9943 to speak to a qualified family law attorney today.

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