Child support payments are legal obligations of a parent or both parents to provide financial support to a child or children after a divorce or separation. These payments are established by a court of law and are legally binding.
The obligor/non-custodial parent (the parent paying the child support) is liable to pay the obligee/ custodial parent (the parent receiving the payment) an amount set by a court of law until the child support order is terminated.
Sometimes, the obligor may struggle to make child support payments due to unforeseen circumstances, such as a job loss or medical emergency, and may wish to terminate or end the child support payments. If you are in such a situation, read on as we tell you how to stop child support payments legally. We also give you answers to some of the most pressing questions relating to the termination of child support payments.
When Do Child Support Payments Stop Or Terminate?
Generally, child support payments terminate once the child reaches the age of majority or becomes an adult. The age of majority may vary depending on the state laws (1) (2) (3), but is 18 years in most states. Child support payments may also be stopped when (1):
- The child is 18 and no longer attends a high school on a full-time basis.
- The order for child support does not require support to continue after the child turns 19.
- The allocation of parenting rights and responsibilities (custody) for the child has changed.
- The child is adopted.
- The child gets married.
- The child joins the military on a full-time basis.
- The child is emancipated legally. It means that the child is legally separated from the parents as they have become self-sufficient and no longer need the financial support of their parents.
- The child is deported.
- The obligee or obligor is a grandparent, and the status of the child or the parent has changed.
- The obligor or the child has died.
In some cases, the obligee could also decide to stop accepting child support payments from the obligor due to the following reasons:
- The obligee’s financial situation has improved.
- The parents get back together.
- The custodial parent understands the non-custodial parent’s financial condition and decides to stop receiving child support payments.
- There has been a change in circumstances, such as the child moving in with the obligor or moving out of the custodial parent’s home.
How To Stop Child Support Payments?
If you wish to stop child support payments for any of the reasons listed above, you will need to notify the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA) in your state.
Once the CSEA receives the notification, it will investigate to check if the reason for the termination is justifiable or if there are any arrearages (unpaid balances) that need to be paid by the obligor.
After the investigation, the CSEA sends a copy of recommendations to both the obligor and obligee. If both the parties do not object to the recommendations within 14 days, the child support termination order becomes final.
In case one or both the parties object to the recommendations, a written notice requesting an administrative hearing must be given to the CSEA. The CSEA will conduct a hearing and issue the Hearing Officer’s decision.
If you have any other reasons apart from those listed above, you will have to move a petition with the court to terminate child support payments.
You could reach out to your family attorney or the county clerk to get more clarifications about the documents required and the whole process.
During the court hearing, the court may ask you questions keeping in mind the child’s best interests. Make sure you have your valid reasons and requisite documents, such as your termination letter from your previous employer and medical receipts. Also, ensure you notify the other party about the court hearing in advance.
If the court finds your reasons satisfactory, it may terminate the child support completely. In some cases, the court might allow for a modification to the terms in the child support order and reduce the child support amount. This could happen if the circumstances that you are in are temporary.
You might think that the best option would be to get in touch with the obligee and try to reach an amicable agreement. While this could save you a lot of time and money, it might not be the best idea as child support payments are court-ordered and legally binding. Hire a lawyer or reach out to a legal aid society for help if you cannot afford a lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What happens if I owe arrearages or have overpaid child support?
The law mandates that you pay the arrearages that you owe the obligee before the child support payment is terminated. The conditions for paying the arrearages do not change even if the child support is terminated. And, if you have overpaid child support to the obligee, the CSEA can request your state’s tax department to offer you tax offsets or stop the child support payment ahead of time.
2. What happens if I do not pay child support?
Your failure to pay child support could be due to various valid reasons. However, if you are capable of paying it and do not do so, you would have to bear dire legal and financial consequences (2):
- You could lose your driving and professional licenses.
- Your income tax refunds could be intercepted.
- Your salary, benefits, and bank assets could be withheld.
- You may be denied visas and passports.
- You may have to serve jail time.
- You could be charged with a felony.
- Your credit score could be affected.
3. Do child support payments end automatically?
No, it should be ended through a legal process. As mentioned earlier, you should notify the CSEA or move a petition with the court. If you have any doubts, always consult a qualified attorney or state and local child support agencies.
4. How long does the termination process take?
The process could take anywhere from two to three months but could be longer if there are objection hearings involved.
5. In what circumstances do child support payments get extended?
This depends on the state where you have filed your child support payment order. In most states, you may be required to continue supporting the child if they are still enrolled in a post-secondary institution or are mentally and physically disabled.
Your child’s age of majority is not the only factor that determines when you should stop paying child support. Consider all the factors carefully, and make sure you follow fair procedures. All in all, the decisions that you make should be in the child’s best interest. Also, ensure you reach out to support groups for help concerning paperwork and court hearings.
2. Child Support Orders; State of Indiana
3. Child Support Services Program; Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services