Monday, April 05, 2010

When does child support end?

In Pennsylvania, child support terminates when a child reaches the age of eighteen (18) or graduates from high school, whichever is later.  So -- if your child turns eighteen during his or her senior year of high school -- child support will terminate upon graduation.  If your child turns eighteen after graduating from high school -- child support will terminate on the eighteenth birthday.  As with any rule, exceptions and deviations exist.  By way of example, a child who cannot care for themselves due to a severe disability may have child support extended.  On the other end of the scale, if an eighteen year old has not completed high school -- but is not pursuing a high school diploma, the child support will most likely terminate.

In Pennsylvania, absent agreement of the parties, there is no child support during the college years and no court compelled payment of college tuition.  (New Jersey's rules do provide for post high school support).

For a family that separates prior to children completing college, these harsh rules can be devastatingly burdensome ot the custodial parent as college age is probably the time when children become most expensive.  However, because children are considered adults at this age in Pennsylvania, the court will not order child support or college tuition payments.  While difficult for the custodial parent, this type of law also protects the non-custodial/support paying parent, from being directed by the court as to his or her  financial participation in an adult child's life.

The mechanics of actually terminating the support depend on the situation.  If the support order covers more than one child, then the amount must be recalculted when the child reaches the age of eighteen.  Some people mistakenly believe that if a suport order covers two chidlren and one child becomes emancipated, then the support number will be reduced by 50%.  However, that is not the case.  The entire order must be recalculated.  By way of example, someone earning $5,000 net per month may have a monthly child support order for two children in the approximate amount of $1,253.  (This assumes that the other parent has no income or earning capacity).  For one child, that monthly amount reduces to $933.

If you are paying or receiving child support, be prepared for the termination date of any child on the order.  Reach out to the other parent and attempt to negotiate a new amount to beceom effective (or complete termination if it only covers one child).  If the other parent does not agree, file a petition with the court prior to the emancipation date.

Recently, the Superior Court affirmed a trial court's decision to terminate child support on a child's graduation date.  Initially, the support had terminated when the child turned eighteen (during her senior high school year). The Domestic Relations section had sent several notice to Mother, asking for the child's high school status.  However, Mother failed to respond and the order was terminated -- even though graduation was five months away.  Mother then petitioned the court for the support to be reinstated, saying she had never rexceived the notices.  The court agreed with Mother.  Father felt that because Mother had not responded to the notices, the support should have been terminated, and not reinstated.  Both the trial court and the Superior Court agreed with Mother.  You can read the entire opinion, Castaldi v. Castaldi-Veloric, here.

19 comments:

George R. McCasland said...

It should be noted that the age child support stops is variable from state to state, and don't assume it automatically stops. An official request needs to be made in advance.
http://child-support-ends-when.dads-house.org/

Anonymous said...

What if the child drops out of school and the request is not made. Will the custodial parent owe the money back?

Linda A. Kerns, Esquire said...

Generally, child support modifications are retroactive back to the date of filing the petition. However, there are exceptions and each case depends on its own unique set of facts.

Anonymous said...

If my 16 year old son has a baby. Am I still responsible for child support for him ?

Linda A. Kerns, Esquire said...

Whether or not you still must pay child support for a child who has a child of their own depends on a variety of factors: the state law, your support agreement, your child's circumstances, etc. For specific advice, you should always consult an attorney in your jurisdiction.

Anonymous said...

Thank you

Samuel Spigelmeyer said...

my son turned 18 in oct 0f last year and was going to graduate from high school but defered his diploma so he could go to a trade school that the school has. Domestic relations stoped his child support because he turned 18 but his mother is trying to have them start it back up again because of him going the 13 year, can this happen or should it stop? BTW we are in Pennsylvania

Anonymous said...

My son is 18 father is from philadelphia pa just received a document in mail that my sons father filed emancipation process and won my son has a job making close to nothing and is starting college living on campus child support does not continue if I file a petition?

Mrs. King said...

I live in Pennsylvannia and have been paying child support for my two oldest children from a previous marriage. My oldest turned 18 back in April 2011. How do I go about emancipating him (if I am using the correct terminology)? My child support did not cancel automatically upon his graduating highschool in June of 2011. Second thing My other son will turn 18 in April as well of 2013 in which he graduates. So I figured I would do it all at the same time. Thank You.

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C said...

What if a child stays back a year in high school? Does it still apply and if so, what are the limits then? He's not 18 yet, but will be in 2 years and he will only be a junior. Otherwise, he could go to HS for a few years more and I would have to pay for his laziness.

Dave said...

My daughter now 19 is taking online classes toward GED or High School Diploma, she does not anticipate graduating any time soon.How long do I have to pay child support in this situation? She is taking classes sporadically and working full time.

Dave said...

I forgot to this case is in P.A., both parents live out of state.

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Anonymous said...

Hi, I live in PA. My son will be attending college in NJ and I will be moving there with him to extend the child support. Will I need to re-apply for child support since it ends in PA when he graduates from high school? Or will we have to hurry up and move before it ends. It is very difficult to find an answer. Thank you

Linda A. Kerns said...

Thank you for all of the comments on my blog. I cannot provide specific, individualized advice over the blog. It is meant to be a source of general information only.

Anonymous said...

my 20 yr old child is disabled and is still attending high school in pa. I don't ever forsee "graduation" but am told the child will remain in school until the age of 21. How long must I continue paying support? I would like to ask for a hearing but I'm not certain how to request the support be fully stopped. I want to be prepared for the hearing....

Anonymous said...

my disabled child is 20 and I am being told can remain in school until 21 yrs of age. I do not forsee a "graduation" per se. How do I request my support be stopped? Do you have to have "grounds" for the request?

Anonymous said...

Just checking my options. My daughters father has never helped pay for her. We spent 17 years on our own without anything from him. He didn't want any part of having a child, and never met her until she called him recently out of the blue because she wanted to know who her father was. She will be 18 in January and is supposed to graduate high school 6/13. I am currently unemployed, so I cannot afford a lawyer. Also, I can't remember if I filed for support 17 years ago. How do I find that out? We are in PA.