Child support payments are often mandated by a court of law when the parents of a child go through a divorce. Which parent ultimately pays child support to the other is determined by the court using a number of factors to determine what the court believes will be in the best interest of the child.
There is often a lot of anticipation on the part of the paying party to bring those payments to an end as soon as they can. Thus, the question is often asked: When do child support payments end in North Carolina?
When Your Child Turns 18
Generally speaking, the day that your child turns 18 is when child support payments are brought to an end. There are exceptions to this, but usually, the 18th birthday for your child is a milestone occasion when they become an adult in the eyes of the law.
Thus, it is often at that moment that the paying parent is freed of their responsibility to continue making child support payments.
Can child support payments end before their 18th birthday?
The short answer is yes; there are some scenarios in which child support payments may be legally terminated before your child turns 18. The major exception in North Carolina state law is if the child has not completed primary or secondary school by age 18. In that scenario, the paying party would need to continue making payments until the child graduates, fails out of school, or stops attending classes regularly. However, even in this scenario, the paying party cannot be obligated to make payments beyond the child’s 20th birthday.
An important thing to mention at this stage as well is the fact that a parent who has failed to meet some or all of their child support payments is still legally required to make those payments even after the child turns 18. Their obligation to make those payments continues until they are paid up on all of the payments owed (including any additional fees).
Can Child Support Last Beyond the Child’s 18th Birthday?
There are a few specific exceptions that allow a North Carolina court to determine that a parent pays child support payments beyond that child 18th birthday.
One such exception is if your child becomes legally emancipated before they turn 18. Legal emancipation is a court process by which your child is granted legal independence from both parents before they are 18 years old. It is rare for a child to seek emancipation from their parents. If the court grants emancipation, then the paying parent will be relieved of their responsibility to make child support payments.
The other way that child support payments may be cut off before a child’s 18th birthday is if the recipient of those payments dies before the child is 18. Additionally, if the child dies before reaching age 18, then payments come to an end at that point as well.
Other Scenarios Which Child Support Payments May Be Ended in NC
There are other scenarios in which it may be possible to bring an end to child support payments. North Carolina courts recognize certain scenarios for which it would be inappropriate or unnecessary to continue forcing child support payments to be made.
These scenarios include:
Your child has stopped living with the parent who was receiving payments
If the child no longer lives with the parent who was receiving payments, then that parent is presumed to no longer have the financial burden of raising that child. Thus, they will no longer need to receive payments, and those payments can be suspended by the court at that time. However, the paying parent must file for modification or termination of their child support obligation in order to no longer be legally responsible for future payments.
You have reconciled with your spouse and live together again
If you work things out with your spouse and are living together again, then child support payments can be brought to an end.
Your former spouse agrees to stop receiving the payments
It is not often the case that a former spouse will agree to stop receiving child support payments that they are legally entitled to receive, but it could happen. If that occurs, the court may allow the payment plan to be dissolved.
Your child has been deported
Deportation of your child means that your former spouse is no longer responsible for their care, and that would also bring an end to the need for making child support payments.
The child is not biologically related to you
There are certain instances in which it is discovered that the child in question is not biologically related to you. A paternity test is necessary to make this determination. However, if you truly prove that the child is not yours, then your obligation to make child support payments is null and void.
There are a number of avenues for one to explore when it comes to potentially ending child support payments before your child reaches age 18. Any and all of these scenarios would need to be verified in a court of law. That said, there are some people who can get out from under the obligation to pay child support moving forward.
Ask an Experienced Family Law Attorney in Charlotte to Help
Ending child support payments before the child turns 18 is a real possibility. However, you will need a talented attorney on your side to help make it happen. If you hire an experienced attorney, you stand a much better chance of properly making your case before the court and having your arguments heard. It could save you a significant amount of money.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.