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Length of Child Support Obligation

How Long are Parents Required to Pay Child Support?

Generally speaking, child support is paid by either or both of the parents until the child turns 18 or until the child graduates from high school, whichever happens later. But the Texas Family Code also lists down other conditions governing the duration of child support, which may either last indefinitely or stop before the child turns 18.

Under Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code, the court may order either or both parents to support a child until these events occur:

  1. Until the child turns 18 or until graduation from high school, whichever happens later
  2. Until the child is emancipated through marriage, or through removal of the disabilities of minority by court order, or by other operation of law;
  3. Until the child passes away;
  4. Indefinitely, if the child is disabled.

These events for terminating child support will be discussed at length below.

The Child Turns 18 or Graduates from High School, Whichever Happens Later

Children who have turned 18 can still receive child support from their parents if they are still in high school. To be considered “in high school,” the child must present proof of enrollment in a school or program—public or private—with the goal of working towards a high school diploma. In addition, the child must be in high school on a full-time basis and must meet the attendance requirements of the state (for public school students) and the school they are enrolled in.

This provision means that supporting parents must take an active role in ensuring their children graduate from high school as soon as possible, lest they continue making child support payments indefinitely. And even when a child goes to college, parents can still negotiate to continue child support payments until the child graduates, although it is uncommon for support to extend after the child turns 21-years old.

Emancipation

Texas law refers to emancipation as the removal of disabilities of a minor, which basically means that a minor is seen as a legal adult even at age 16 or 17. This can happen through:

  1. Marriage;
  2. Enlisting in the military;
  3. Petitioning the court for freedom from parental control.

Minors who petition a court for emancipation must be:

  1. A Texas resident of and age 17;
  2. Aa Texas resident at least 16 years of age and living separately from his or her parents, is self-supporting, and able to handle his or her own affairs.

When your child is emancipated, you are no longer obligated to continue child support payment because he or she is genuinely independent in the eyes of the law. Please contact our Austin child support lawyer for more information.

Death

This event should be self-explanatory. Upon the death of the child, the supporting parent is no longer obligated to continue making support payments.

Disability

According to Section §154.302 of the Texas Family Code, a child who is disabled is someone who:

  1. Requires substantial care and personal supervision due to a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support;
  2. Has a disability, or is known to have a disability, on or before his or her 18th.

In either case, the child in question may or may not be institutionalized. If the court sees that the child requires daily assistance to perform daily tasks, this will constitute an indefinite disability, requiring the obligor parent to continue paying for child support for an indefinite amount of time.

In instances of disability, child support payments can be made directly to adult children, or their legal guardian or conservator.

For questions and further clarification about child support in Texas, get in touch with the Austin child support attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.

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