Does Child Support End Automatically When My Child Turns 18?
Parents that pay child support are often counting down the days when they no longer have to pay child support. A divorce decree always says when child support ends. But a lot of parents don’t know that there are sometimes extra steps you have to take to end child support. Some states automatically stop child support payments. Other states make the paying parent take an extra step to end the payments.
So what about South Carolina?
Unfortunately for the paying parent, child support does not automatically end in South Carolina. Instead, you likely will have to file something with the court.
However, whether you have to file something with the court or not depends on how you pay child support. In South Carolina, there are two ways to pay child support. You can either pay directly to the other parent, or you can pay through the Clerk of Court.
1. Paying Child Support Directly to the Other Parent
If you pay child support directly to the other parent, then you can stop paying child support when your obligation ends. As discussed above, this may be when the child turns 18 or graduates high school. Read your divorce decree very carefully. The divorce decree is a court order that tells you when your child support obligation ends. If you stop paying child support too soon, you will violate the court order. This means that you may be “ruled in” to court. If you’re held in contempt, then you may have to pay a fine, attorney’s fees, or even go to jail. It’s a very costly mistake, so be sure to read your divorce decree carefully!
Child support usually ends when a child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school. This may be different based on your divorce settlement. Sometimes, parents agree to extend child support until the child reaches an older age. It may also be extended to when a certain event happens, like a child graduates from college.
Be aware of any arrears you may owe. When you are in arrears, this means that you are behind on child support. Even if your child support obligation ends, you still owe any child support you haven’t paid already. If you don’t pay your arrears, you will face a Rule to Show Cause.
If you’re unsure when your support obligation ends or what obligation you may have regarding arrears, it’s best to consult an attorney.
2. Paying Though the Court or DSS
If you pay child support through the clerk of court, you will need to file a motion with the court to stop the child support order. This is especially important if your wages are being withheld. Basically, the clerk of court isn’t going to look through every person’s support obligation every month to see whose obligation has expired. Instead, the burden is on you to bring this to the court’s attention.
If you pay child support through the South Carolina Department of Social Services, then you also will need to file a petition with the court to stop the child support order.
When Should I File the Motion to Stop Child Support?
You can file the motion as soon as your child turns 18. Once you file the motion, it’s on the custodial parent to file an objection to continue the child support.
Child support usually ends when a child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school. What if a child is still in high school at age 18? Then the child support obligation continues until the child graduates or turns 19. This may be different based on your divorce decree. Sometimes, parents agree to extend child support until the child reaches an older age. It may also be extended to when a certain event happens, like a child graduates from college.
If your child is 18 and no longer in school, then your support obligation is over. That is, unless there’s a court order or agreement that says otherwise. The court presumes when you file a motion to stop support that your child reached the age of majority. This means your child is 18 and no longer in school. Then the burden shifts to the other parent to object if they believe support should continue.
If you moved to a different state than where you were divorced, you may need to register the child support order.
If you’re unsure when your support obligation ends or what obligation you may have regarding arrears, it’s best to consult an attorney. The Maron Law Group can help you end your child support obligation with confidence. We serve families all over the state of South Carolina, including Charleston County, Dorchester County, Berkeley County, and Beaufort County. Contact us today by sending us a note or by calling us at (843) 998-0644.