While child support is a legally and morally necessary obligation that parents must contribute to their children’s expenses, it can represent a significant amount of a paying parent’s paycheck. Therefore, if you have been ordered to pay child support, there is nothing wrong about wanting to understand how long this obligation is going to last. In fact, the question of when a child support obligation ends matters a great deal to your financial security and future.
Generally, a parent’s child support obligation ends upon the child’s 18th birthday. However, there are scenarios where an obligation may end before or after this 18th birthday.
Termination of Child Support BEFORE the Child’s 18th Birthday
The North Carolina General Statutes allow for a court to terminate a child support order if a minor child is emancipated. This is a legal process in which a minor child gains legal independence, which also means that both parents’ legal obligation to support the child also ends.
The other scenario—which is decidedly worse—involves the death of a parent or a child. This means the deceased parent is no longer obligated to support the child, or a parent no longer owes child support payments for the benefit of a deceased child.
Termination of Child Support AFTER a Child’s 18th Birthday
There are also specific exceptions that allow a court to continue a child support order past the child’s 18th birthday. This includes if the child is 18 but has yet to finish a primary or secondary school at the time they turn 18. Here, a parent must continue to pay child support until the child graduates, fails out of school, or stops regularly attending—but the payments cannot continue past the age of 20.
Notably, even if a child support obligation ends,a parent who owes arrearages is not absolved of paying them.. These must still be paid off until the obligation and any related fees are paid off.