How long does child support last?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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Child support rules are set by individual states, so there is no universally set age at which child support ends. However, the purpose of child support is to ensure that a child enjoys a standard of living comparable to his parents and that the child is financially supported by both parents and this helps determine how long support must be paid. 

When Child Support Ends

While the laws vary between jurisdictions, there are some common milestones that set standard ages and are applicable in many states. For example, many states dictate that a parent is only responsible for child support until the child’s 18th birthday. Similarly, other states may require support until either age 19 or 21. Aside from age, another common milestone used to determine the duration of child support is graduating from high school. In this case a state will require child support to continue until the child graduates high school, regardless of age.

There may also be special circumstances or provisions in place if a child is disabled or will require care beyond the period of normal childhood. These rules are also determined on a state level and may vary greatly.

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Other Situations

Aside from ending when a child reaches the age of maturity, as set by the state, child support can also be terminated in the event of the child’s death, if the child goes on active duty in the armed forces, or if the child becomes emancipated or self-supporting.

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