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When Do Child Support Obligations End?

When parents reside in different states or different countries, child support issues can become complicated. You need the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney. Contact our office for a consultation to discuss your interstate or international child support situation.

A California Lawyer Experienced in All Aspects of Child Support

If you are considering or facing divorce with children in Orange County or Los Angeles County, it may be essential for you to form realistic expectations and protect your rights on the issue of child support. Experienced, widely respected family law attorney Brenda McCune can help you achieve clarity on this matter and deal with all other aspects of your divorce, whether your case is relatively straightforward or extremely complex.

In addition to providing strong divorce representation, our Brea law firm takes action for people whose financial circumstances have changed substantially due to a job loss or other major event. You can contact us to talk through your likelihood of success in receiving a change in your child support order. We offer a free initial consultation.

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Led by board-certified family law specialist Brenda McCune, our Brea, California firm is an excellent resource for people facing a full range of problems associated with divorce and its aftermath. We offer our clients honest, clear information about child support and other financial issues such as community property division.

We defend children's interests and help parents deal with difficult issues in communities ranging from Diamond Bar and Chino Hills, to Fullerton, Long Beach and Garden Grove, to Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana and Irvine — as well as nearby communities such as Yorba Linda, La Habra, La Mirada and Norco, California.

When Do Child Support Obligations End?

Many factors are taken into account in determining when child support payments will end. In some situations, it is as simple as the child reaching the age of majority. In others, payments may not end until the child has graduated from college. If you have questions about child support, contact The Law Office of Brenda McCune in Brea, California to speak with an experienced family law attorney about your concerns.

Age of Majority and Emancipation

Absent exceptional circumstances or an agreement that states otherwise, the general rule is that child support obligations cease once a child reaches the age of majority. Under most state laws, this is 18 or 21.

If the child becomes emancipated, child support obligations also end. Emancipation means that the child is "beyond the control, custody and care of the parents." Reaching the age of majority can trigger emancipation. The child also can seek a court order to become emancipated from his or her parents. If a child marries, they are considered beyond the control of their parents. Likewise, if a child becomes economically self-sufficient - which means more than part-time employment - the child may be emancipated. In some jurisdictions, once a minor enlists in the armed services, he or she is considered emancipated.


Parents may be required to pay for college expenses as part of their support order. The parents may have agreed to pay for educational expenses or, in some states, the court may order the obligor parent to pay.

The court will consider several factors in determining whether to require a parent to pay for college, including:

  • Would the parent have contributed to the child's educational expenses if there had not been a divorce
  • Did the parent create a reasonable expectation that the child should attend college
  • How does the child's proposed course of study fit in with the child's overall long-term goals and abilities

In many jurisdictions, the most important consideration is whether the parent has the ability to pay for college and whether paying for educational expenses will create economic hardship.


Many states require parents to continue to pay support after a disabled child reaches the age of majority. If the child becomes disabled after reaching the age of majority, most states do not require the obligor parent to pay for his or her care. Parents also can come to an independent agreement, subject to approval by the court, to provide care for a disabled child after he or she reaches adulthood. The costs and needs of an adult disabled child may be best handled separately from a child custody and/or divorce proceeding. In some instances, seeking the help of an estate planning attorney may be a better option for taking care of a disabled adult child's needs.


For more information on terminating child support obligations, contact The Law Office of Brenda McCune in Brea, California. An experienced family law attorney can explain your state's child support laws and help you construct the best plan for your children's needs.

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