When you first get divorced, you’re likely not thinking about how long child support lasts. You’re probably only thinking about how to get it started. However, when you’re working on your divorce case, it’s important to understand when child support ends under North Carolina law. When you understand the law, you know how to plan for your children and ask the court for an appropriate judgment of divorce. Here’s what North Carolina law says about when child support ends:
At the age of majority or high school graduation
The general rule is that child support ends when the child turns 18 or when they graduate from high school, whichever happens later. If the child turns 18 when they’re still in high school, child support continues until they graduate. If the child is already a high school graduate when they turn 18, child support ends when they turn 18. Support lasts for the entire month of the child’s 18th birthday.
Never beyond age 20
Even if a child is still in high school, child support ends for good on the child’s 20th birthday. In addition, if the child is in high school after age 18, support continues only as long as the child continues to make reasonable progress towards graduation. If they don’t attend school regularly or they’re not on track to graduate, child support may end at the court’s discretion as long as the child is already 18 years old.
The courts generally can’t order payments for college
The courts don’t have the power to require either parent to pay for college expenses. Child support ends when it ends under the rules. There’s no exception no matter what resources the parents have and no matter how deserving the student might be. In today’s society where college attendance is quite common, this rule might seem unfair. Others say that it’s very fair because the purpose of child support is to provide for the needs of the children during their years of minority.
Despite the strict rule, you might be able to reach an agreement with the child’s other parent. If you can incorporate payment of college expenses into your divorce judgment outside of child support, the courts typically honor the agreement. Be careful when making this agreement, though, because you don’t know what each parent’s finances might look like in the future. What’s fair and reasonable now might not be fair or possible in several years.
What if a parent owes arrears when child support ends?
If a parent owes child support arrears when child support ends, the parent must still pay the arrears. In that case, child support payments continue at the same amount the parent paid before the termination of the support order. All of the payments after the child reaches the age of majority are applied to the parent’s arrears obligation.