At What Age Does Child Support End in California

Hossein Berenji, Mar 08, 2023

Parents can expect California child support payments to continue until their child turns 18 years old. Child support payments are based on California child support guidelines.

Most standard child support orders terminate payments upon the child’s 18th birthday. That is when the child is considered an adult.

However, some situations change the age when child support ends in California. Some exceptions to the rule include:

The Child Is Still in High School

Child support payments can be extended through a child’s 19th birthday if they are still a full-time high school student living at home. The child support payments would end when the child turns 19 years old or graduates high school, whichever date comes first.

A parent may continue supporting their child after they turn 18 years old. For example, a parent might help a child with college tuition and living expenses during college. A parent might help a child who is moving out on their own for the first time.

However, under California law, most parents do not have a legal duty to support their children after they become an adult unless ordered to do so by the court.

Your Child Joins the Military

Your child might graduate high school early or obtain their GED so they can join the military. If this happens, child support payments end when the child is officially a United States Armed Forces member. You no longer have a legal duty to financially support your child, even though they are only 17.

Your Child Gets Married

California law views a person as an adult if they are legally married or enter a domestic partnership. As a result, your financial obligation to pay child support payments ends.

Termination of Your Parental Rights

Only the legal parents of a minor are responsible for paying their financial support. Therefore, child support payments end if the court terminates your parental rights. Likewise, if you voluntarily give up your parental rights so your child can be adopted, you are no longer financially responsible for your child’s support.

Some parents might try to avoid paying child support by relinquishing their parental rights. Therefore, the courts do not allow parents to terminate parental rights without the other parent’s consent.

It is important to remember that the termination of parental rights is permanent. You have no legal right to demand visitation or custody of your child.

The Court Grants a Petition for Emancipation

A child can petition the court for emancipation. Emancipation is the legal process for declaring a minor an adult and ending parental control.

The child must be at least 14 years old and have a legal way to earn money to support themselves. They must also confirm they do not want to live with their parents and that their parents do not object to them moving out. The minor or legal representative must also prove to the court that emancipation is in the child’s best interest.

When the court grants emancipation, a parent’s legal responsibility to financially support the child ends. Emancipation effectively makes the child an adult with all the rights and responsibilities of an adult.

Your Child or a Parent Dies

When a child passes away, a child support order terminates. As a result, the parent can stop paying child support payments. Typically, child support ends when a parent dies, but there could be situations where the estate might be required to make payments.

Your Child Has Special Needs

The court can order parents to continue providing for the financial needs of their child past the child’s 18th birthday. An adult with special needs is an example of a situation that could result in child support payments past the child’s 18th birthday.

California Family Code §3910 states parents have a responsibility to support a child who is incapacitated, cannot earn a living, and does not have sufficient means of support. However, the statute limits the responsibility to the extent of the parent’s ability to provide support.

The law allows judges to use their discretion to decide matters in child support cases involving an adult child with a disability or special needs. The judge considers all relevant factors to determine if child support is required. If so, the judge must decide the amount and duration of the support payments.

Child support cases for a disabled adult child can be very complicated. A parent might disagree whether their child has sufficient means to support themselves.

Likewise, a parent might question whether the child can support themselves. A family court judge might find that an adult child cannot work to earn a living. However, that does not mean the Social Security Administration will agree and approve SSI benefits for the child.

Seek Legal Help With California Child Support Issues

Child support matters can be confusing, frustrating, and complex. If you have questions about when your child support payments end, the best source for answers is a Los Angeles child support lawyer. Make sure you understand your obligations before stopping child support payments, or you could face severe penalties and consequences.

Contact a Beverly Hills Family Law Lawyer Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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