Ending a Child Support Obligation

In Child Support by Elizabeth Stephenson

Parents should financially support their children. That is not a controversial statement. In fact, the state of North Carolina explicitly requires that a “father and mother shall be primarily liable for the support of a minor child.” It is understandable, however, that as a minor child approaches adulthood, the parent paying child support begins an internal countdown to the day that the child support obligation ends. For many parents, it is a commonly held belief that their court ordered child support obligation ends when their child turns eighteen. After all, kids become adults at eighteen years of age, right? In the world of child support in North Carolina, the answer is not that simple.

The North Carolina General Statutes set forth the exact conditions in which a child support obligation may end. Essentially, court ordered child support payments terminate when the child turns eighteen except where:

  • The child has become legally emancipated, at which time the payments terminate.
  • The child is attending primary or secondary school at the age of eighteen, then child support payments “shall continue until the child graduates, otherwise ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first, unless the court in its discretion orders that payments cease at 18 or prior to high school graduation.”
  • The child is enrolled in a “cooperative innovative high school program,” then payments shall terminate “when the child completes his or her fourth year of enrollment or when the child reaches the age of 18, whichever occurs later.”
  • The minor child or the parent paying child support is deceased.
  • There has been a change in the custody arrangement, in which the parent paying support is now the child’s primary caretaker.

Even if one of these exceptions applies, it is still incumbent upon the parent paying child support to file a motion to terminate child support obligation in order to get the matter in front of the court. Continued compliance with the child support order is essential, as the order remains in full force and effect until the court rules on your motion. Significantly, even if a court terminates a child support obligation, the parent paying child support still owes arrearages in accordance with the prior child support order, which must be satisfied.

Let New Direction Family Law Assist You

If you need help resolving a child support issue, please contact us. New Direction Family Law has served clients for over twenty years and understands just how important it for children and parents to resolve child support issues in a thoughtful, efficient manner. Our team practices in Wake, Johnston, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Nash, Granville, Franklin, and Durham counties. Call our office today at (919) 719-3470 to schedule an initial consultation, or online at our website.