When Does Child Support End in California?

In California, both parents are expected to financially support their child. If an unmarried couple breaks up, or if a married couple divorces, the parents’ legal obligation to support their child does not end.

Child support is the money a court orders a parent to pay each month to support their child or children. In California, child support can be ordered as a part of a variety of cases, such as paternity, legal separation, domestic violence, and divorce.

Terminating Child Support

Parents are legally obligated to financially support their children. Noncustodial parents cannot just stop paying their child support because they lose their job, they become incarcerated, or they become disabled.

The only way for a parent to be relieved of their obligation to pay child support is for their parental rights to be terminated or for their child to reach the age that child support is no longer legally required.

In California, noncustodial parents pay child support until their child reaches the age of 18. If the child is still in high school when they turn 18, the noncustodial parent must pay child support until the child turns 19, or graduates high school, whichever happens first. However, a court can order a parent to pay child support beyond a child’s 18th or 19th birthday if the child is disabled.

Modifying Child Support

It is not unusual for child support to be changed periodically after it’s been ordered. Why? Because, as time goes by, one or both parents’ circumstances usually change. Essentially, whenever there has been a significant change in circumstances, either parent can petition the court for an upward or downward modification.

What counts as a significant change of circumstances? It can be a significant change in either parent’s income or the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Here are some examples:

  1. The father is the noncustodial parent and he gets hurt in a workplace accident and goes on workers’ compensation. Since his income is lower, he asks the court for a downward modification.
  2. A father becomes incarcerated and asks the court to reduce his child support obligation while he’s incarcerated.
  3. A teenage boy turns 14 and moves in with his father permanently, so his father asks the court to change the child support order so his ex-wife now has to pay him child support.

If you are looking for an Orange County attorney to assist you in a child support matter, please contact our firm to schedule a case evaluation.