What Happens to Child Support When a Child Turns 18?

Interviewer: When does the child support stop? Is it when the child turns 18 or are there other factors?

Tanya: No, child support ends upon what is called emancipation. That is when the child no longer is dependent on the parent or parents. Typically, most kids usually go straight from high school to college. It is usually upon graduation from college.

Interviewer: Does child support really typically last until graduation from college?

Tanya: Yes, child support ends then unless it is the kind of family that says you have to go work full time; or you have to earn your college degree through working. That is a unique family. But most families pay for their kids’ education these days. So the children are still dependent on the parents until they graduate from college.

The actual child support guidelines are only applicable until the children are 18. You can go online and get that formula. If the children go to school at home, like community college and they commute, the guidelines are the same through college. If the kids go away to college and have room and board elsewhere, then you have to look at the actual needs and budget of the child for child support.

Interviewer: When someone turns age18, does the child support now go directly to them because they are not a minor in some way; or does it still go to the parent?

Tanya: It still goes to the parent. If the parent is still providing a room, food, and a car and insurance for the kid, it still goes to the parent.

Interviewer: What if the child goes away? Does child support go to the school, or to the parent?

Tanya: It depends. You look at the child support; you look at the obligations in college; and you look at who is paying for what. A room and board that has to be paid for at college is one consideration.

Then you also look at when the kid comes home three or four months of the year. Where is the kid staying? If your kid is totally away, you need one less bedroom. But if the kid is not totally away, you still have to keep the bedroom; and you still have to pay for the kid when he or she is home.

Then you look at whether the kid is working. What is expected? Is the child paying for his or her own auto insurance and paying for his or her own gas? Is the kid paying for his or her own clothes? Is there an expectation of a job? Some parents do expect that. Some parents do not expect that.

Sometimes it costs more. There was a case recently where, actually if you figure it out, it costs more to send your kid away; to furnish the new room; and to travel back and forth. This is in comparison to a kid that stayed home. So it is variable.