Paying child support obligations is a standard part of any divorce or paternity petition, and most parents have no issue providing the financial contribution during a child’s formative years. However, there usually comes a point in a child’s life when child support is no longer required, and the question then becomes – does the parent just stop paying or do they have to do more to end the required payments? Knowing the answer to this question is important for both parents, so each is aware of their rights and obligations during the entire period court-ordered child support is in effect. A review of the grounds for termination under Florida law, including cases where child support is a continuing obligation for the life of the child, and the procedures necessary to legally ending child support payments will be discussed.Grounds for Termination
In the majority of cases, child support obligations end when the child reaches the age of majority, 18. The support obligation can extend beyond the age of 18 if the child is a dependent, still in high school, and expected to graduate before 19 years old. If, however, the child is not on track to graduate before attaining the age of 19, the child support obligation would end when the child turns 18.
There are also circumstances where child support would terminate prior to the age of 18. Termination will apply if any of the following occur: the child marries, is emancipated, joins the military or dies. Conversely, if the child suffers a mental or physical defect that existed before the child reaches the age of 18, the non-custodial parent could have child support obligations that extend for the entirety of the child’s life if there is no reasonable expectation the child will ever be able to self support.Procedure to Terminate
Whether or not you need to do anything beyond stopping child support payments depends on how the payment is made to the custodial parent. For child support orders that permit direct payment to the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent can just stop paying the support if the order lists a termination date, and there are no facts that would extend the obligation for longer period of time. Once that termination date is reached, child support obligations cease. If the payments are funneled through the Florida State Disbursement Unit, either by non-custodial parent or by an employer under the terms of an income deduction order, a court order is required to terminate the disbursement unit account. A court order is necessary even if the child support order and/or the income deduction order list an end date. If the non-custodial parent fails to obtain a court order terminating the disbursement unit account, the parent could be hit with a failure to pay child support accusation.
The Florida Department of Revenue, the agency charged with child support enforcement, does have the ability to assist with the termination of child support obligations, but due to its size and caseload, it may not be the most efficient method of pursuing this end. If you cannot just stop paying child support and want to initiate court involvement on your own, a Supplemental Petition to Modify or Terminate Child Support needs to be filed. Similar to when the original child support order was issued or later modified, both parties will need to exchange financial information, may be ordered to mediation, and/or attend a final hearing in court. This is an involved process that is best handled by an attorney to ensure efficiency and proper procedure is maintained.Find a Lawyer
Knowing when and how to end child support obligations is just as important as knowing when and how to pay them. If your child is nearing the age of 18 and you have questions about whether you need to continue making support payments, contact an attorney at Stok Kon + Braverman With offices in Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach, they can assist you with determining when and how to initiate termination of payments and offer confidential consultations. Contact us today for more information.