When Child Support Ends Before a Child Is 18

Parents are legally obligated to support their children whether or not they live with them. While child support generally stops in North Carolina when a child reaches the age of 18, there are circumstances in which a noncustodial parent’s child support obligations may end before then. If the child becomes legally emancipated due to marriage or joining the military, the parent may no longer be required to pay child support. A child may also become emancipated by becoming economically independent or by abandoning the family home.

If a child has special needs, child support obligations might continue after the child is 18. A parent might also be required to pay child support to a minor child who has divorced.

Child support obligations do not automatically stop just because a child has become emancipated or turned 18. A parent must request the termination of child support orders.

Child support is generally calculated using a formula that takes income and expenses such as health care into account. It is usually paid by the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent. If a parent is not paying child support on time, the other parent is not permitted to prohibit that parent from seeing their children in an effort to compel them to pay child support. There are other ways of legally pursuing child support that may include garnishing the parent’s wages. If parents are unable to continue paying support because they have lost their job or their income or expenses have changed in some other significant way, they must apply for a modification of the child support order. Parents might also want to consider other ways that their children might require support after reaching legal adulthood, such as assistance with their college education.

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