Child Support: When Does the Legal Obligation Cease?

Written by Natalie C. Lashway | nlashway@farr.com | Download
Attorney Natalie C. Lashway Family Law Attorney

Natalie C. Lashway, Attorney
Natalie’s practice focuses on marital & family law, elder law and civil litigation.

Myth: Child support in Florida automatically terminates when a child reaches the age of 18 years.

 

Although parents often claim that supporting a child never ends, many wonder when the legal obligation to pay court ordered child support stops. One fairly common myth is that child support in Florida automatically terminates when a child reaches the age of 18 years. This is not necessarily the case.

When child support terminates depends on the order requiring the payment of support. Florida Statute Section 61.13 was revised in 2010 to require that all orders for child support, with limited exception, will terminate when the child turns 18. When there are multiple children subject to the support order, child support for each child must terminate when each child turns 18. For multiple children, the order for child support must additionally state what child support will be once support is no longer due for one or more of the children.

However, many orders entered before or after this statutory revision do not provide for such an unambiguous termination date. Despite the statute, parents may agree to alternative payment durations. For example, parents often agree that child support will be paid until the child turns 18 or until the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. In such a case, for a child that turns 18 before graduating from high school, child support will not terminate when the child turns 18, but will continue until the child graduates high school.

If the termination of child support is not automatic pursuant to the order for support, a parent seeking to terminate child support must file a supplemental petition for modification of child support with the court. Until such a petition is filed, child support will continue to accrue at the rate ordered by the court. With limited exception, child support can only be modified retroactive to the date of filing a petition. In the meantime, even if the facts supporting a modification of child support exist, the payor parent will continue to be liable for support payments in the amount previously ordered by the court.

A qualified marital and family law attorney can review a child support order to determine whether child support will automatically terminate upon certain circumstances. Such an attorney can also assist with an application for modification of support. Please contact the attorneys at the Farr Law Firm if we can be of assistance to you.


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