When Your Florida Child Support Obligation May End Before — or After — Your Child’s 18th Birthday

Many online news headlines are intentionally constructed to be shocking, thereby getting you to click. In one recent example, a British online news publication covered a case where two Gloucestershire parents were ordered to support their 16-year-old married daughter and to pay that support to the girl’s 27-year-old husband.

Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? It may also lead you to wonder… could that happen to me, here in Florida? If you are the majority-timesharing parent of a teen, could you go from receiving child support to paying child support if your under-18 child marries? As always, to get the customized answers you need, which are tailored to the specific facts of your case, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney. (Generally speaking, though, a Florida parent would never find himself or herself in the position that these two British parents found themselves.)

Many people focus closely on a child’s 18th birthday when it comes to assessing how long a child support obligation lasts. However, Florida law actually acknowledges several scenarios in which a child support obligation might end prior to a child’s 18th birthday. One is if the child obtains a court judgment declaring the child to be legally “emancipated.” This is also sometimes called “divorcing one’s parents.” Several celebrities, like actors Macaulay Culkin, Ariel Winter, Jaime Pressly and Juliette Lewis and Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu, have successfully undertaken such action. Once a child is emancipated, the parents lose all parental authority over that child, but also lose the obligation to support that child financially.

Another situation in which child support can end before age 18 is if the child enters the military before age 18.

Additionally, if an under-18 child gets married, that also triggers an end to the support obligation. (That’s why, here in Florida, if your 16-year-old daughter marries, you’re probably not going to continue to owe child support for her.) Just as in court-ordered emancipation, the parents lose parental authority but also lose the obligation to provide support.

Be aware, though, even if something happens that triggers an early end to your child support obligation, that only terminates future amounts you would have owed. If you have back-owed child support arrears, that arrearage doesn’t go away, and you remain required to pay it.

The obligation may end early, but it also may extend past the 18th birthday

Emancipation by the courts and a child’s marriage are a few examples where child support can end before the child turns 18. There are also some situations, on the flip side, where your child support obligation may keep going even after the child’s 18th birthday has passed. These situations include:

  1. The child is in high school, is between 18 and 19, and is on track to graduate before the child’s 19th birthday. (In that scenario, the obligation continues until the child’s date of graduation.)
  2. The child has certain disabilities
  3. The parents mutually agreed to extend the child support obligation past the child’s 18th birthday.

Whether you are working to modify, terminate or maintain an existing child support obligation, don’t go to court alone. The South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to give you the advice and representation you deserve. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.