Does Child Support End When the Child Turns 18?

child support endMany people assume that child support payments end when the child reaches 18 years of age. Although this is true in many cases, there are some specific exceptions to bear in mind.

The terms of a divorce decree may extend the period of time for child support to later than when the child turns 18. This will be negotiated during the divorce, so it should not come as a surprise to either party. It is important to remember that although the term of child support may be extended, an agreement cannot be made to end child support before the child turns 18.

Another possible exception to child support ending at age 18 was adopted by Virginia legislators in 1992. The new law provides for child support to continue until the child graduates from high school or turns 19 years of age, whichever happens first. As long as the child is a full-time high school student, has not yet turned 19, and lives with the parent who is seeking support, then child support must continue to be paid.

If the child is crippled or incapacitated and unable to earn a living, child support must continue as long as the condition persists. This only applies if the incapacitated child lives with the parent who is seeking child support. If the child’s condition improves at some point after their 18th birthday, payment of child support may be reduced or discontinued.

Finally, a child may become emancipated, resulting in the end of child support. This is the only scenario in which child support may be ended legally before the child turns 18. Emancipation is a legal definition meaning free from care, custody, and control, in this case of one’s parents. A child over 16 who marries, joins the armed forces and is on active duty, or who lives apart from his or her parents and is completely self-supporting may be considered emancipated.

Child support is often a contentious issue in a divorce, and both parties will be extremely interested to know the full scope of its amount and duration. If you are contemplating divorce, or are already divorced and have questions about child support, the experienced attorneys of DiPietro Family Law Group are here to help. Contact us today by calling (703) 370-5555 to schedule a consultation.

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