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Termination of Child Support Obligation

When does your obligation to pay court-ordered child support payments stop? Like most issues in the legal field, it depends.

North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.4(c)(1-3) states that payments ordered for child support shall terminate when the child turns 18 except when (1) the child is emancipated, at which time payments shall terminate, and (2) if the child is enrolled in a primary or secondary school and reaches 18, child support shall continue until the child graduates, no longer attends school regularly, fails to make academic progress toward graduation, or reaches their 20th birthday, whichever comes first. Of course, the court may use its discretion to terminate child support at age 18 or before the child graduates from high school. Under subsection (c)(3), if the child enrolls in a cooperative innovative high school approved in Chapter 115C, Article 16, Part 9 of the N.C. General Statutes, support payments shall terminate after completing the fourth year of classes or when the child turns 18, whichever is later.


Many high schools in the Piedmont-Triad area recently delayed high school graduations for a month or more due to COVID. How do you determine what date to use for termination of your child support obligation? Should you use the date on the diploma or the date of the graduation ceremony? In applying the statutory language of N.C.G.S. § 50-13.4(c)(1-3) above, once the child has fulfilled all requirements for graduation and is no longer attending school on a regular basis, the child could potentially be considered a graduate for child support purposes. Issues like this are why you need an experienced family law attorney on your side.


What if you are behind on payments and your child turns 18? Suppose you are in arrears in your child support payments, meaning you haven’t paid everything you have been ordered to pay. In that case, your child support obligation will continue until you have paid all monies ordered by the court. If your child has turned 18 and graduated from high school, all payments must be paid under the court order for the obligation to terminate.


You should not just stop paying your court-ordered support payments without an order from the court terminating the obligation. The parent ordered to pay child support will need to file a motion to terminate your child support order with the court. Wage garnishments for child support through the North Carolina Child Support Centralized Collections require a court order terminating child support payments for any garnishments to stop. The order terminating child support must also be given to your employer for termination of wage garnishments. Navigating complicated issues like termination of court-ordered child support often requires an experienced family law attorney‘s guidance.