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Does Child Support End Automatically At Age 18, Or Do I Need To File Paperwork?

Does Child Support End Automatically At Age 18, Or Do I Need To File Paperwork?

In general, child support in Utah ends when the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. Additionally, if a child becomes emancipated prior to reaching 18 years of age and marries, joins the U.S. military, or is removed from disability status, child support will also stop.

There are some cases in which the child continues to receive child support after turning 18 and graduating from high school, but either parent must show the court why child support should continue. For example, a child who has special needs and unable to independently support himself/herself financially can still receive child support past his/her 18th birthday.

If the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) collects child support from you–often by withholding payments from your paycheck–such payments would automatically terminate. To be safe, send an email (with a read receipt request) to notify ORS your child’s 18th birthday or the date of your child’s high school graduation and ask ORS to stop income withholding at that point. If for whatever reason ORS continues to withhold payment, you have a record of your request to stop payment. If you are paying your ex directly, send him/her an email (with a read receipt request) informing your child support obligation will end when your child turns 18 or graduates from high school.

The two most common, main triggers for the termination of court-ordered child support in Utah are:
• when your child reaches majority at the age of 18 years and graduates from high school, with child support terminating upon the event that occurs last
• if and when a child becomes emancipated before age 18 if the child marries, becomes a member of the armed forces of the United States, or is emancipated by a legal action filed in court.
• While child support can be ordered beyond the age of 18 and graduation from high school (until age 21), usually one has to prove a compelling reason for extending child support beyond age 18, such showing that the child has special needs and cannot independently support him- or herself financially.

Is it possible to terminate court-ordered child support obligations in Utah before a child turns 18 or emancipates?

Not really, unless you are willing to relinquish your parental rights and the other parent is willing to agree to that, and you can persuade a court to allow termination of your parental rights and obligations. And I know many of you have wondered about this, even if you’re afraid to admit it: if you think you’re in the clear if you managed to avoid paying child support until your child reaches the age of majority (i.e., 18 years), think again. Utah Code § 78B-5-202 provides that a child support order or a sum certain judgment for past due support may be enforced within four years after the date the youngest child reaches majority or eight years from the date of entry of the sum certain judgment. The longer period of duration applies in every order, and a sum certain judgment may be renewed to extend the duration of the order.

When Do I Stop Paying Child Support?

So, you pay child support in Utah for your kids. They’re fourteen and sixteen. You’re cool with child support (or you should be), but you want to know when will it end? Now, these are kids we’re talking about, so even when you stop paying child support, you won’t actually stop giving them money. But, at that point you can choose the when, the why, and the how much. And there’s something to be said for that.

Let’s see what Utah law has to say about when you stop paying child support for your kids:
Adjustment when child becomes emancipated.

1. When a child becomes 18 years of age or graduates from high school during the child’s normal and expected year of graduation, whichever occurs later, or if the child dies, marries, becomes a member of the armed forces of the United States, or is emancipated in accordance with Title 78A, Chapter 6, Part 8, Emancipation, the base child support award is automatically adjusted to the base combined child support obligation for the remaining number of children due child support, shown in the table that was used to establish the most recent order, using the incomes of the parties as specified in that order or the worksheets, unless otherwise provided in the child support order.
In other words, child support stops when a few major things happen: When your child turns eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever happens later.

(Note: the language “normal and expected year of graduation” refers to kids who are held back a grade. So, if you get divorced, and then your kid has to be held back a year, you don’t have to pay child support during that extra year of high school.)
• When your child passes away. Let’s hope this never happens.
• If your child gets married.
• If your child joins the armed forces.
• If your child emancipates.

The most common event, by far, that stops child support is a child turning eighteen or graduating from high school.

Child Custody, Parent-Time, Child Support, Spousal Support, Property and Debt Division

Divorce is one of the most complex legal actions anyone can engage in. It affects parental rights, property rights, income, taxes, insurance, retirement, and may even affect certain freedoms. Also, there are exceptions to almost every general rule. For these reasons you should always consult an attorney about your specific situation. The following information is presented for educational purposes only.

Utah Jurisdiction

Before filing a Divorce Complaint or beginning any action involving custody of children, the petitioner must ensure Utah has jurisdiction to hear the case. For divorce, one of the parties must be living in Utah for at least three months immediately prior to filing. Also, for jurisdiction over anything but the marriage, both parties must have lived in Utah as a married couple or the respondent must have committed an act in Utah that led to the divorce. In other words, after three months Utah can grant a divorce, but cannot issue orders regarding alimony, property, debts, etc., unless both parties lived in Utah as a married couple or the respondent committed an act in Utah that led to the divorce.

Regarding children, Utah has jurisdiction over children if both parents live here, one parent lives here and the children have lived here for at least six months prior to filing, one parent lives here and the children have not lived outside of the state for more than six months, or both parents consent to Utah having jurisdiction. There are exceptions to these general rules in emergency situations.

Child Custody

Child custody is determined based on a best-interest analysis. In other words, what type of custody arrangement is in the best interest of the children. This can include sole custody to one parent, joint custody, or split custody, meaning one child lives with one parent and another child lives with the other parent.

There are two types of custody in Utah, legal and physical. Legal custody involves making life decisions for your children. For example, medical, religious, educational, and other types of major life decision will be made be the parent with legal custody. Utah law creates an automatic presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the children. Meaning both parents will maintain a say in major life designs for the children. This requires the parents to communicate with on another and make decisions together. The presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interest of the children can be overcome if one parent has problems that prevent him or her from acting and making decisions on behalf of the children.

Physical custody simply refers to which parent the children will live with most.

Generally, parents will share joint legal custody and one parent will be awarded primary physical custody. There can, of course, be variations if the situation warrants it. For example, one parent can be awarded sole legal and physical custody, the parents can be awarded joint legal and joint physical custody, or the parents can be awarded split custody, meaning each parent has primary physical custody of at least one child.

The factors to determine which custody arrangement is in the best interest of the children are extensive. They include which parent is the primary caretaker of the children, which parent has a stronger bond with the children, the children’s preference, existing custody arrangements (both formal and informal), and the parent’s willingness and ability to act as custodial parent. Often, a judge will request the help of a professional custody evaluator before making a custody determination. This evaluator will come into both parents’ homes, interview them and the children, and write a report giving his or her professional opinion about which custody arrangement is best for the children.

Below are the basic rules and Utah statutory sections detailing the factors used in determining custody:

Rules of Judicial Administration 4-903:

The purpose of the custody evaluation will be to provide the court with information it can use to make decisions regarding custody and parenting time arrangements that are in the child’s best interest. This is accomplished by assessing the prospective custodians’ capacity to parent, the developmental, emotional, and physical needs of the child, and the fit between each prospective custodian and child.

Parent-Time, Visitation

Parent-time, or visitation, is awarded to the parent not awarded primary physical custody of minor children. Utah law has a minimum parent-time schedule that can be awarded in most situations, with the hope the parents can work together on a more frequent schedule that works best for them and the children.

If the parents are living within 150 miles of each other, the minimum parent-time is every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening, and every Wednesday evening for approximately three hours. The parents will also rotate major holidays and one-half of the summer break.

If the parents are living more than 150 miles from one another, the minimum parent-time includes one weekend each month and extended holidays such as Spring Break, Fall Break, Christmas, and one-half of the summer break.

If the children are under five years old, minimum parent-time is less-frequent to accommodate the children’s younger age. This ranges from just a few hours a week to one overnight a week depending on the ages involved.

There are numerous other arrangements that can be agreed to by the parents or can be ordered by a judge. This can include a more specific parent-time schedule to accommodate a specific work schedule, supervised or restricted visitation for a parent with an alcohol, drug, or violence problem, or a complete cessation of parent-time if it is determined such an order is in the best interests of the children.

Child Support

In Utah, child support must be ordered in every divorce involving minor children. In fact, child support should be paid as soon as parents separate, even before an order is entered by the court. Of course, knowing how much should be paid is always the issue. Generally, both parents’ incomes are factored into the support table that has been created by the Utah legislature, and the support figure is automatically generated from there. What should be included as “income” has also been defined by the legislature, and simply includes the equivalent of one, full-time job. Seasonal work or regular overtime pay can be included in certain situation. Also, if a parent has no income he or she will generally be imputed at least a full-time minimum wage for calculation purposes.

Other factors that affect the child support calculation include child support or alimony being paid to or from a former spouse, other children living in either parent’s home, and if there is a split or joint custody arrangement.
The custodial parent (or parent that has the children most) is usually entitled to receive child support, even if he or she makes more money than the noncustodial parent. Child support can be waived in some circumstances, but any such waiver is permanent and should only be considered in very special circumstances. Of course, a noncustodial parent not wanting to pay is not special.

A child support order generally lasts until the children are emancipated, meaning reach 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever is later. If there is more than one child under the support order, the support figure should be adjusted as each child is emancipated. The new figure is simply calculated by using the same income figures listed in the most recent court order, but with one less child. If the parents’ incomes have changed since the last order, a Petition to Modify should be filed so the judge can adjust the income figures and child support order.

Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer

It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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