When Does Child Support End in California?
If you are currently paying child support, you have probably wondered, “When will this financial obligation end?” Well, according to California law, child support typically ends when a child turns 18 years of age, which is considered the “age of majority.” At that point, you generally would not be obligated to make the same support payments since the child is now considered to be an adult. However, there are noteworthy exceptions you need to be aware of. For example, there is an exception for an 18-year-old child who is still a full-time high school student. In such situations, child support ends when the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever is sooner.
Other Ways Child Support Can End
Besides a child reaching age 18 or 19, child support may end if one of the following circumstances is true:
- The child gets married
- The child joins the military
- The child is emancipated before turning 18
- The child passes away before he/she turns 18
- The court ends the support or custody order
Special Needs Exception
Another exception is when child support is for a special-needs child who cannot be financially or medically independent when they reach the age of majority. Both parents need to agree (in writing) and stipulate who will be financially responsible for the child after they reach the age of 18. A custodial parent may request additional support since a special-needs child may have foreseeable and recurring medical expenses, such as medications and therapies, as well as educational expenses.
Alas, child support can continue past a child’s 18th birthday, so long as they agree on a certain date or age and submit papers to the court. For example, parents can agree to support their child until he graduates college or turns 21 years old.
Parents are expected to support their children financially. If the parents are not married or do not live together, the court may order one parent to make child support payments to the other parent. There are several ways child support can start.
Likewise, several triggers end child support payments. If you are paying or receiving child support payments, you need to know when those payments end. If you stop paying child support payments too early, you could face severe penalties for violating a child support order.
How Child Support Works in California
A child support obligation may result from a legal separation, annulment, or divorce action. In addition, child support may be ordered as part of a case involving a petition to establish a parental relationship (paternity action), request for a restraining order for domestic violence, or a petition for custody and support of minor children.
Child support can also be ordered through the local child support agency (LCSA). The LCSA can establish parentage through paternity tests. The agency assists parents in obtaining child support and enforcing child support orders.
In all cases, the proper amount of child support is calculated based on the California child support formula. Factors that impact the amount of child support parents pay include the following:
- Income of each parent (both active and passive)
- The amount of time each parent spends with the child (time-sharing plan)
- How many children the parents have together
- How many children each parent supports from other relationships
- Health insurance expenses
- The tax filing status for each parent
- The cost of uninsured health care expenses and daycare costs
- Mandatory union dues
- The court might also consider other factors when calculating child support by the guidelines. For example, the court might require a parent to contribute to a child’s special needs, educational needs, or reasonable health care expenses.
Court Order May Specify End Date
The court order awarding child support often specifies when support payments end. If not, the obligation generally ends whenever one of the following situations occurs:
- The child turns 18 years of age and is not enrolled in high school full-time
- The child turns 19 years of age or graduates high school
- The child passes away before the age of 18 years
- The child gets legally married or registers a domestic partnership
- The child joins the military
- The child becomes legally emancipated
- Parents may voluntarily agree to continue child support payments after the obligation ends. Parents of disabled adult children who cannot support themselves usually work out an arrangement to support their adult children.
What Can Happen If a Parent Stops Making Support Payments
If you have been ordered by a California court to pay child support, do not ignore this obligation or be flippant about the responsibility. Why? Because California courts are serious about child support enforcement. If you miss your child support payments, the court may hold you in contempt. There are several penalties the judge may impose for contempt of court.
The judge may order one or more of the following punishments for a parent who fails to pay child support payments:
- Monetary fine
- Jail time
- Community service
- Ordering the sale of the delinquent parent’s property
- Requiring the delinquent parent to pay the court costs and legal fees for the court action
- Garnishing the parent’s wages or bank accounts
- Seizing other resources to recovery the unpaid child support, including unemployment compensation, lottery winnings, tax refunds, pension payments, disability benefits, veteran’s disability payments, and workers’ compensation benefits
There could be some assets and sources of income that might be exempt from garnishment. However, the judge is likely to use all resources available to obtain payment of the past-due child support payments.
There could be other penalties for not paying your child support payments. For example, you could lose your driver’s license. In addition, the child support arrearage could be reported to the credit reporting bureaus, which could negatively impact your credit score.
Have Questions About Your Rights and Obligations Related to Child Support?
If you have questions about your legal rights and obligations pertaining to child support, Castro Law Offices is ready and able to help.
Castro Law Offices is a premier California law firm focusing in child support issues, divorce, child custody, and all other issues concerning domestic relations. Castro Law Offices is based in Novato, California, but is ready and able to provide legal services and advice to clients in and around Marin County including Novato, San Rafael, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Sausalito, Larkspur, West Marin, Ross, Mill Valley and Corte Madera, and Napa County and Sonoma County. Contact Castro Law Offices today to schedule a confidential consultation.