No matter which side of the child support order you’re on — getting payments from your ex or making those payments — you probably want to know how long the support will last. When is it going to end? When can you count on moving forward?

There are a few different reasons that child support can stop. They are as follows:

  • The child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult.
  • The child finishes high school and goes to college.
  • The child passes away.
  • The child gets married.

While there are tragic cases where a child passes away early or rare cases where children get married before they turn 18, most child support simply terminates when the child reaches adulthood. This may also coincide with when they go to college.

What about college tuition?

Some parents argue that child support should continue to help cover college tuition, but it does not. Parents are, of course, allowed to help their children pay for college if they would like, but they have no legal obligation to do so. It’s a choice each adult can make for themselves.

If this is something that’s important to you and your spouse, you may want to discuss it in advance. Talk about it during the divorce. Determine how you want to provide financial assistance. Though there is no outright obligation under child support laws, that does not stop you from creating an agreement that puts your children first.

What if the child still lives at home?

Not all children move out when they become adults. Many of them continue to live at home long afterward. However, please note that child support still ends at 18. It then becomes the parents’ decision about whether or not they will let the child — now an adult — keep living at home. If they decide to do so, that’s fine, but the other parent is not obligated to keep paying support as a result.

What if the child has special needs?

This is one of the few exceptions to the rule. Some children have special needs due to physical and/or mental issues that mean they will require care from their parents for as long as possible. Turning 18 does not mean they will become independent adults. In these cases, the court considers all factors and makes a decision. It can order child support payments to continue even after the traditional cutoff points. Parents have to follow this ruling.

What are your rights?

As you and your spouse go through the divorce, you must know your rights as a parent. You must understand your legal obligations. Make sure you take the time to look into all of them carefully.