Does Child Support Automatically Terminate When My Child Turns Age 18?

Ordinarily, a parent’s legal responsibility to provide child support for their child terminates when the child attains age 18. However, there are exceptions.

If the child is still in primary or secondary school when the child attains age 18, child support will continue by law until the child graduates from high school, ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make academic progress, or reaches age 20, whichever first occurs. Upon application to the court, the court in its discretion may order that child support payments terminate at age 18 or prior to high school graduation depending on the circumstances of the case at hand.

If a child support arrearage exists at the time that a child support obligation terminates as a matter of law or by court order, the parent remains obligated to continue paying child support in the same amount until the arrearages have been satisfied or until order of the court.

A parent may voluntarily enter into a valid contract legally obligating him/ herself to continue to provide support for a child beyond the age of 18 or required by law. Typically these are situations in which a parent agrees to pay college tuition and/or related expenses while a child pursues a college education, or provide support for a disabled child.

Child support may be terminated prior to a child attaining age 18 if the child marries or becomes emancipated by court order.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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