Child support eligibility guidelines can differ by state, but common factors in the decision include who has custody and the child's unique needs, among others.
Are You the "Custodial" Parent of a Child? In order for a parent to get child support, he or she must usually be the "custodial" parent of a child. A "custodial" parent is one who has primary physical custody of a child. This generally means that the child (or children) lives primarily with the custodial parent, and this parent is chiefly responsible for day-to-day care of the child (e.g. making arrangements for day care, ensuring the child is well-fed, taking the child to various social acitivities, etc.). The "custodial" parent can be designated by a court after a divorce and child custody dispute, or can be assumed naturally in single-parent households where only one parent is raising the child (while the other parent has made no effort toward seeking custody) Child Support in Joint Custody Situations In joint custody cases in which a child spends equal time living with both parents, they may both be considered "custodial" parents. However, one parent may still be required to pay child support to the other. This is especially likely if there is a large disparity in the parents' incomes. For example, if a husband and wife get a divorce and agree to share joint physical custody of their son, the husband would likely be entitled to receive child support from the mother if he was a stay-at-home father during the marriage, while she earned a six-figure salary. Without receiving such financial support, the father would probably not be able to pay the day-to-day expenses required to properly provide care for the child, even on a half-time basis. Additional Considerations Being the custodial parent of a child will not in itself guarantee that you will receive child support. A number of other legal and practical issues must be considered. These include: Do you know the whereabouts/location (i.e. address, employer, and other contact information, etc.) of the other parent? If you do not know this basic information, you may be entitled to free assistance with locating the other parent, through your state's child support services agency, listed here. Have you established legal fatherhood (paternity) if this issue is in question? Have you gone to family court, or to the local branch of your state's child support services agency, to get a child support order? In most states, once a child support order is issued, the state's child support services/enforcement agency can provide parent location, support collection, or support enforcement services. More Information Requesting and receiving child support payments can be complicated, and oftentimes very confusing. To learn more about the process in general, check out FindLaw's section on child support. In addition, if you find yourself in need of legal assistance or advice, consider consulting a family law attorney with experience handling child support cases.
When do child support payments in Washington typically end? Normally, how long a parent has to pay child support in Washington state is until the child reaches 18 years of age, or graduates from high school. There are other extraordinary situations in which child support payments may end prematurely. For instance, if the child marries or dies, child support payments are effectively terminated. Circumstances That Call for Extension of Child Support In a typical case, your child support payments will continue until the child reaches the age of 18. However, in some cases, you may have to pay child support even after the child turns 18 years of age. For instance, if the child suffers from a disability, and requires long-term attention or medical care, a court may order that child support payments continue even after the child turns 18 years of age. Circumstances That Call for a Quicker Termination of Child Support Payments If a child has not turned 18 years of age of age, but has gotten married, then s/he's not considered eligible for child support payments. You can easily and immediately stop child support payments legally. There are other circumstances that may make it difficult for you to pay child support payments. For instance if you lose your job, or have suffered any other kind of financial distress that make it difficult for you to continue to make child support payments, then you can ask the court to modify your child support order to lower these payments. Such modifications are not easy to get, however. You will have to provide the court with strong evidence that clearly establishes that you need lowering of child support because you are unable to make the same amount of payments. Will my remarriage affect child support payments? When you remarry, it has no impact on the child support payments that you are required to make. If you have children from your new remarriage, it will not automatically lead to a modification of the child support obligations you have to the children from the earlier marriage. However, a court may consider your request to reduce child support payments, because you now have another family to take care of financially as well.
When does child support stop? First you need to find out if the child support has really stopped. In Missouri, your decision is made as follows: 1. Is your child over 21 years of age (and not adjudicated disabled) If yes, go to the next section. 2. Has your child graduated from high school, and, if yes, is s/he going to a post-secondary educational instituion (can be college, university or a trade school). If a high school grad and nothing beyond, go to the next step. 3. Is your child married or in the military? If yes, go to the next step 4. Has your child dropped out of school and is over 18 years old? If yes, go to the next step. 5. Has your child died? If yes, go to the next step. 6. Has a court found that your child is disabled enough that s/he can't be self supporting? If so, child support doesn't stop. Step 2 - If your child support is supposed to stop, what then Child support doesn't ordinarily stop automatically in Missouri. The law says that the parent receiving the support is supposed to notify the other parent that child support is supposed to stop. That doesn't always happen either because there are other, usually younger, children so the parent receiving support doesn't think about it, or because the parent receiving support doesn't want the support to stop. If there are other children in the household (who are also your biological children), the child support is supposed to be recalculated at the same time the child support for the one child is ended. If the parent receiving support just hasn't filled out the paperwork - and filed it with the court - to end child support, the parent paying the support can also fill out the paperwork. What if my child is a college student? There are special requirements for college students to remain eligible for child support. Because of the detail that's required, if you have a college student who is not a full time (meaning taking and passing 12 credit hours each semester - or, if your child is employed, taking and passing at least 9 credit hours and working an average of 15 hours a week), you would be well advised to consult with an attorney to help you decide whether the child support should be ended for that child. Children are supposed to provide both parents with both enrollment information and grades for each semester in order to remain eligibility - in addition to the requirements listed above. The enrollment information and grades are supposed to be provided at the beginning of each semester. A failure to provide the required information MAY result in the child support being subject to ending. What if I have overpaid child support because the other parent didn't tell be child support should end? The law says that a parent who is receiving child support who doesn't let the other parent know that the child support should end has to repay to the paying parent any child support amount that the parent receiving child support shouldn't have received. This is generally subject to proving it to a judge. The Jackson County, Missouri, form to ask for a termination of child support can be found on the Jackson County Circuit Court's web page. If you are in another county, your county's form should be similar.
If you have an order of child support against you, you are aware that it needs to be paid every month. Many clients wonder when their child support is going to end. In the State ofMissouri, there are several different ways that child support can end, or be terminated. Emancipation in the State ofMissouriis governed by statute and case law. The law states that unless the circumstances of the child manifestly dictate otherwise and the Court specifically so provides, that child support ends when the child dies, marries, enters active duty in the military, becomes self-supporting, reaches eighteen (unless they fall into exceptions) or reaches the age of twenty-one. Self-supporting means that the custodial parent has relinquished the minor child from parental control by express or implied consent. An example of this is when the custodial parent is no longer bearing the majority of the minor child’s expenses. It can also mean the minor child has moved out and has established a separate residence. Twenty-one is the age of emancipation in the State ofMissouri. However, some orders can extend the date of emancipation past the child’s twenty-first birthday to the age of twenty-two, when a certain amount of semesters in college have been reached, or when a child receives a degree. To know for sure, clients need to check their original order, or consult with an attorney. A caveat to the above applies when the child is physically or mentally incapacitated from supporting himself, insolvent and unmarried, the court may extend child support past the child’s eighteenth or twenty-first birthday. At this point some parents seek legal guardianship over their child. If you are interested in that option, please speak to a probate attorney. The majority of my clients fall into the specifics of the college exceptions. When a minor child reaches eighteen, and the child is enrolled in and attending a secondary school program of instruction, the child support shall continue. It continues only if the child continues to attend and progress toward completion of said program. Child support ends when the child completes the program, or twenty-one, whichever first occurs. However, the minor child now also has several obligations for said child support to continue. The child must be enrolled in said school by October 1st or February 1st following graduation from high school or an equivalent program. The Court reserves the right to waive the deadline if the circumstances dictate. The child must be enrolled for and complete twelve hours of classes each semester. They must achieve high enough grades to be reenrolled for the next semester. Further, to remain eligible for support, the child must submit to each parent a transcript or other similar official document from their school which includes the courses the child is currently enrolled in and has completed, the grades and credits received for each course, AND an official document from the school that lists the courses and credits in which the child is enrolled. These documents must be submitted by the beginning of each semester by the child. This cannot be sent by the custodial parent to the parent paying support. If the child does not do this, the child will be considered emancipated. Another important portion of the law states that if the child receives failing grades in half or more of his course load in one semester, payment of child support can be terminated. This does not refer to course credits. Every university, college or trade school handles failing grades differently. Some give the child an incomplete or give them the class credit. The law addresses solely grades. Further, at any time, the non-custodial, or paying parent, may request the required documents from the minor child. The child shall produce said documents within thirty days of receipt of their grades. If the child fails to produce the documents, child support can terminate. There are a few exceptions to the above rules. One applies when a child is employed for at least fifteen hours per week during the semester, they are only obligated to take nine hours of credit a semester and pass. Further, a child who has been diagnosed with a developmental disability, or whose physical disability or health problem limits the child’s ability to carry twelve hours per semester, will still be eligible for child support if they are meeting all the other requirements of the law. And please don’t forget: at any time, the parent paying support may petition the court to amend their order and have the parent pay the child directly. When your child is indeed emancipated, do not assume someone else will end this obligation. The burden to end the child support is on the parent or party receiving the support. However, traditionally neither they nor the State ofMissouriwill end your obligation. I would suggest you contact an attorney or the Circuit Clerk’s office. In the State ofMissouri, a party can fill out a form and have the other party served with it. If the opposing party agrees that support should end or the child is the age of twenty-one, the support then ends.
Child support in Massachusetts in covered in Chapter 208, Section 28 of the Massachusetts General Laws. (http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleIII/Chapter208/Section28) Child support is an important part of any divorce when there are minor children, so parents should have at least a basic understanding of child support. Make sure your divorce attorney or divorce mediator explains child support to you if you are or may be paying or receiving child support. One of the most frequent questions asked about child support is “how long does child support last?" Child support normally lasts until a child is 18, although it may continue until age 23 if the child is principally dependent on the receiving parent and enrolled in an education program (up to an undergraduate degree). If a child has yet to graduate high school, but still in high school and dependent, child support would continue. The specific events that can trigger an end to child support eligibility should be specifically addressed in a Separation (Divorce) Agreement. Here is some typical language one might see in a Massachusetts divorce or separation agreement regarding the termination of child support: (a) the child attaining the age of eighteen (18) or graduating from high school (whichever last occurs), except that if the child commences a formal full-time undergraduate education in a two or four year college or university, or any reasonably equivalent accredited course of study, and is matriculating successfully, the child shall not be deemed to be emancipated until the child graduates from or completes said college, university or course of study, or reaches the age of twenty-three (23), whichever first occurs; or (b) the child’s marriage; (c) death of the child; (d) the child’s engagement in full-time employment, except that full-time employment during secondary or post-secondary graduate school vacations periods shall not be deemed emancipation; or (e) the child’s establishment of a residence not with the (primary custodial parent), except that the child’s alternate living arrangements during post-secondary education (other than with the parent paying child support) shall not be deemed emancipation. (f) entry into the military service of the United States (provided that emancipation shall be deemed to terminate upon discharge from such service; thereafter, emancipation shall be determined in accordance with other applicable provisions of this section); (g) in the event a child is emancipated by not being enrolled in a full-time course of college education, and subsequently returns to a full-time course of college education and has not yet attained age 23, he shall resume his unemancipated status until the first to occur of one of the events above. (h) the child’s receipt of governmental benefits intended to provide support for the said child (e.g. receipt of AFDC or SSDI payments). Like in most areas of the law, things are not always as cut and dry as we might like. Situations can vary, so your circumstances may be different and this information is not intended as a substitute for legal advice that is specific to your actual situation!