Parents in California are legally required to support their children financially until they reach the age of majority. In California that age is 18 unless the child is in high school. In that case, a parent must support the child until the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever comes sooner.

When parents divorce, that legal obligation is turned into a child support order issued by the divorce court. Child support is based on guidelines that take a number of factors into consideration.

Parents usually enjoy their relationships with their children and want to support them so that they thrive. But there are some conditions in which formal child support can and should end early. Most of these situations have to do with changes in legal status. Child support issues in California are complex. Bring your questions and concerns to an experienced child support attorney.

Parents Reconcile

It happens. Parents who divorce sometimes mend their fences and reconcile. They remarry or begin cohabitating again in anticipation of remarriage. Remarriage does not automatically end the child support order. In this case, a parent will need to take action, especially if a wage garnishment is in place to collect the support. Support is then subsumed into the marital relationship.

The Child Marries or Registers a Domestic Partnership

In California, a child under the age of 18 requires parental permission and judicial approval to marry. However, when that permission is granted and the child marries, child support should end. Whether the child marries or registers a domestic partnership, their legal status vis-à-vis their parents ends and a new one begins with the spouse or partner.

The Child Joins The Armed Services

When a child joins the armed services child support can be terminated. A child can join the armed services at age 18 or at age 17 with a parent’s permission. For all intents and purposes, the child is now acting as an adult and is earning his or her own wages.  

The Child is Emancipated

When a child is emancipated under certain conditions, the parents’ legal obligation of support ends. In essence, the legal relationship between the child and parents ends. 

These are the conditions under which the support obligation may end:

  • The child must be at least 14 years old
  •  The child no longer wants to live with parents
  • The child is able to handle their personal funds
  • The child can and does secure a legal income
  • The court decides that emancipation is in the child’s best interest.

It is important to note that a parent may not ask their child to emancipate to avoid paying child support. A court will not terminate the legal relationship in that instance and the support obligation continues.

The Child Passes Away

The death of the child ends the right to support. Support, although paid to the custodial parent, does not belong to the parent. It is meant to support the child. Support may not be foremost in a parent’s mind at such a time, but parents should know that the right to support ends with death.

Termination of Parental Rights

Sometimes, a court moves to terminate a parent’s rights. This involves a severing of the legal relationship between the parent and the child. This may be because the parent has had a long history of little or no contact with the child. In other cases, a court may terminate parental rights when a parent is deemed unfit. 

This can also occur when a parent voluntarily seeks to terminate their rights. This may be because the father had little or no real relationship with the child’s mother. However, until the termination of parental rights, any child support order in place continues to have force and effect.

Parents May Need to Take Action to End Support

When wage garnishment or another legal tool is being used to collect child support, the collection will not automatically end upon the occurrence of one of these instances. A party can petition the court for an order terminating the child support order. A parent will need to take action to have the support ended. What action is needed will depend on the circumstances.

A parent should bring their questions and concerns to a family law attorney who is experienced in child support issues. Child support is a complicated area of the law. Ignoring a child support order can be a costly mistake. Likewise, when a child no longer needs support, it is incumbent on the parent to ensure that they take the necessary steps to legally end the support.