Child support most times tends to be a complicated issue in family law simply because determining the time when a parent’s financial support should come to an end hasn’t always been easy as the support doesn’t automatically come to an end when the child turns 18 (or 19 in some states), and this stems up series of questions about how do the parents put an end to the payment of child support: does it happen by simply agreeing to do so? Or do they just need to get a court order to the effect?
This support doesn’t automatically come to an end when the child becomes 18 nor when the child becomes emancipated. An emancipated child is one who has successfully petitioned the court to allow them to become self-supporting and who no longer needs the financial support of their parents.
Emancipation could also come about as a result of marriage, full-time employment earning enough to be self-sufficient, enlisting in the armed forces, abandoning the parents’ home without reason or consent or some other act where the child becomes self-supporting.
Underlisted here are a number of ways in which child support can be terminated given different circumstances:
1. Terminating support payments when a separation agreement exists:
If the child support is made pursuant to an informal agreement between the parents, it may be easier to modify or terminate child support payments with the other parent’s consent. If the parent has an amicable relationship with the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent can make every effort to come to an agreement with the custodial parent to modify or terminate the child support order.
If you never had to go to court for child support before, then this simple trick would get the job done.
2. Terminating support payments when there is a separation agreement, but parents cannot reach an agreement:
Parents are encouraged to try a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), however, if they truly cannot decide together, they will have to ask a judge to make the decision for them and get a court order to resolve the issue. Depending on what’s best for the child, the payor parent may have to continue making payments, even if the child is older than 18.
3. Terminating support payments that were imposed through a court order:
You and your co-parent can both agree to terminate the child support and bring a motion to change on consent. Once the motion has been granted, the court then makes a consent order based on your agreement.
4. Terminating support payments that were imposed through a court order when co-parents disagree:
Even if the parents do not agree that child support should be supported, one of the parents brings a motion to change or modify the child support order. The moving party has the burden to show why the child support order should terminate, based on legal and factual circumstances.
If the change is granted, you will be required to fill out some forms with your lawyer, including a Support Deduction Order Information Form, which will be processed in court and sent to the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
If the FRO does not have this form, it will continue to take payments from the payor parent.
5. There is no separation agreement or court order, but there is uncertainty:
Individuals who would like to terminate an existing child support order may wish to discuss the circumstances with a family law lawyer. He or she may be able to inform the parent if a legal proceeding is necessary or if family law facilitators or a child support enforcement agency may be able to effectuate the change without the need for the parent to attend a hearing. A family law lawyer can also explain the process of modifying an existing child support order and the legal requirements to achieve this.
NB: Even if the parents reconcile, child support is not usually automatically terminated. Instead, the Child Support Enforcement Agency will continue to collect child support. However, either parent can petition to end the child support order with the court. The court has the discretion to decide whether or not to end the order. It may be more likely to do so if the parents of the child are living together, potentially eliminating the need for ongoing support. State law usually requires the child support to end if the parents marry each other.