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How Long Does Child Support Last in California?

How Long Does Child Support Last in California?

Understanding Child Support in California

If you’re a parent seeking child support, your support will be based on your child’s best interests. Child support is paid in periodic payments, but how long you can receive payments varies. Here’s what you should consider.

How California Calculates Support Payments

In California, child support is calculated depending on how much they deem it necessary for your child’s living expenses, such as daycare, food, or healthcare, to be covered.

The court will calculate how much should be paid using a guideline that depends on the following:

  • Health insurance expenses.
  • Both parent’s incomes.
  • How many children do you have?
  • Amount of time both parents spend with the children.
  • Daycare costs.
  • Uninsured healthcare costs.

There are other factors a court will use to calculate how much support you can ask for using the guideline. Sometimes, the court can order a different amount to be paid outside of the calculations. An attorney can explain what factors will potentially affect your case and how much support you can receive.

How Long Do You Pay Child Support in California?

In California, child support payments are expected to continue until a child turns 18 and continue until the child graduates or turns 19, whichever comes first.

After your separation or divorce, child support starts once the court makes an order for support. You must ask the court to establish paternity and ask to make an order for child support.

In contrast, depending on your situation, your child support could end before your child reaches the age of 18. Reasons to terminate child support include:

  • Your child is legally emancipated.
  • Enter active duty military once emancipated.
  • Gets married after emancipation.

Factors Influencing Child Support Termination in California

It’s crucial for both the parent making payments and the one receiving them to know when child support concludes. The following outlines key elements influencing the cessation of child support contributions in California.

Age of Majority

In California, child support typically concludes as a child attains the age of majority at 18, marking their legal transition to adulthood and financial independence. Nonetheless, this rule has its exceptions, allowing for the continuation of child support past the age of 18 under specific circumstances.

High School Graduation

A notable exception to the age of majority rule occurs when a child, at 18, is still enrolled in high school. In these instances, child support might extend until the child either graduates from high school or turns 19, whichever happens first. It’s important to emphasize that to be eligible for this extension, the child must be earnestly working towards earning a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Disability or Special Needs

Child support can extend past the age of majority for children with disabilities or special needs that hinder their financial independence. In these instances, courts may mandate continued support to guarantee the child’s well-being and care. Parents are required to submit proper medical documentation and evidence to substantiate this claim.

Agreement Between Parents

In California, parents have the option to extend child support payments beyond the child’s legal age of majority. This can be done without the need for specific conditions, such as high school completion or disability. To guarantee these agreements are legally binding, it’s crucial they are properly documented and approved by the court. Often, parents decide on such arrangements when they concur that further financial assistance is essential, for instance, to cover college costs.


Emancipation refers to the legal procedure by which a minor gains legal independence, freeing them from parental control. In California, obligations for child support generally cease if a child is emancipated before reaching 18. Achieving emancipation is possible through marriage, military service, or attaining financial independence.

Termination by Court Order

In certain instances, a court may decide to terminate child support before the child reaches the age of majority if it determines that ongoing support is not in the child’s best interest. This decision could be influenced by a substantial change in circumstances, the child’s decision to sever ties with the paying parent, or other compelling justifications.

Child’s Financial Independence

Child support obligations may cease when a child achieves financial independence and no longer depends on their parents for financial assistance. This situation may arise if the child obtains employment or another source of income that enables them to meet their own living costs.

Parental Agreements and College Expenses

In California, child support typically ends when a child reaches the age of 18. However, it’s worth noting that parents have the option to extend support to cover college expenses or other educational costs. To ensure these arrangements are legally binding, they should be formally documented and approved by a court. Parents desiring to contribute to their child’s higher education can collaborate to establish the scope and duration of their financial support.

Factors Influencing Child Support Termination

Having explored the different circumstances under which child support can conclude in California, we will now examine the factors that determine the cessation of child support obligations.

  • Court Orders — In California, court orders stand as the definitive guide for child support obligations. If the court mandates child support, the obligated parent must adhere to these payments as specified. Similarly, if a court decision ends child support, the payments must immediately stop.
  • Parental Agreement — As previously noted, parents have the option to mutually decide on extending or discontinuing child support. Such decisions should be made harmoniously, formally recorded, and can be presented to the court for validation, ensuring they hold legal weight.
  • Child’s Age and Status — A child’s age and specific life situations play a crucial role in determining the cessation of child support. Events like reaching the age of majority, graduating high school, gaining emancipation, or undergoing significant life changes can all influence the end of child support obligations.
  • Child’s Needs and Best Interests — The foremost priority for the court in deciding on child support matters is the child’s best interests. Should the court find that the child’s necessities are sufficiently met without the need for continued support, it may decide to terminate the support order.

Modifying Your Child Support Order

At Sullivan Law & Associates, we can help you request changes to your support order. We understand that family circumstances change and are here to do the heavy lifting for you.

Contact us today at (949) 590-8100 to schedule a consultation about modifying your custody agreement.