One of the least pleasant things about getting a divorce is the inevitable fight over money with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Typically, the fight over money is the most acrimonious part of any divorce, and it’s what makes most divorces take so long to complete.

There is some money that you likely are less upset about sending to your ex-spouse, though — child support. You want your child to have a good life, and money can help keep them fed, clothed, and healthy. However, even child support doesn’t last forever.

Whether you are sending or receiving child support, you need to know how long it will last and whether there are ways to extend or decrease that timeframe. California Child Support Services offers extensive answers to these questions in its online FAQ, but the following information may be all the answers you need.

The Default End of Child Support in California

By default, child support ends in California when the child being supported turns 18 years old. This is the standard that a judge will use if your divorce is settled in court, and it is the minimum age that child support can end in any negotiated divorce decree. A judge will not approve a child support agreement that ends earlier than that.

Child Support Obligations Outlined in Divorce Agreements

You don’t have to let the courts determine how your assets will be divided when you divorce. Instead, you can negotiate an agreement that both parties agree to. The courts still have to approve the negotiated agreement, but as long as it doesn’t break any laws, that shouldn’t be a problem.

This matters because you can choose to better protect your children by extending child support to continue after their 18th birthday. If this is your intention, your child support attorney will negotiate an agreement that extends child support to 21 years old, the end of college, or some other specific timeframe.

Child Support Can End Early

There are also cases where child support can end before a child turns 18. 

This can happen if the child:

  • Joins any part of the armed forces
  • Gets married
  • Dies
  • Becomes emancipated

When any of the above happens, the paying parent can choose to stop paying child support. They are allowed to continue paying child support (and will be taxed appropriately). But if they stop, the courts won’t force them to continue.

What to Do If Your Ex-Spouse Stops Paying Early

Child support isn’t optional, regardless of whether it is court-ordered or agreed to in a negotiated divorce. Either way, the courts are involved, and child support becomes mandatory until an appropriate end condition occurs.

If your ex-spouse stops paying child support early, you can take legal action against them to force them to continue. Typically, a court will order the delinquent party to resume payments and pay past-due money. Additionally, the Department of Child Support Services will act to collect past-due support.

Should your ex-spouse continue not paying support, a judge may hold them in contempt. This can result in additional fines or even jail time, depending on the situation and the judge’s decision.

Alternatively, you may be able to get your ex-spouse to start paying again by renegotiating your divorce. This might be appropriate if they have fallen on hard times.

Child Support Protects Your Children

Child support rules and services in California exist to protect children after parents get divorced. Knowing when it ends will help you make good choices with how you spend money on your children.

Contact Our Child Support Firm in San Diego, CA

Contact our experienced San Diego child support lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108