Navigating divorce can be challenging. When the situation involves children, another factor that arises is paying child support. This court order requires the noncustodial divorced parent to make ongoing, periodic payments to financially support one’s child or children. As you settle this process, it may leave you wondering when can you stop paying child support?
Reaching the Age of Majority
In short – there are two scenarios that end child support obligations in Tennessee. Whichever of these occasions occur last determines when paying child support ends.
- The child reaches the age of majority, which is 18 in Tennessee.
- The child, or their assigned class, graduates from high school.
Tennessee has issued Child Support Guidelines for judges to abide by to regulate child support procedures for families. However, it is recommended to contact your local child support office for case-specific information.
Child Support & Other Circumstances
The Tennessee Department of Human Services provides fundamental information about paying child support. Child support differs in each state and circumstances such as emancipation, higher education, health, and settlement modifications can impact your requirements.
Emancipation Before Age of Majority
Emancipation occurs when a minor is given the rights of an 18-year-old adult by a Tennessee Chancery Court. In this case, child support is not owed to an emancipated minor.
The process of emancipation begins through filing a petition with the Chancery Court. Since a minor cannot petition to the court themselves, an adult must petition for them on their behalf.
Whether a minor is mature enough to be emancipated from parental guardianship is a decision for the courts. As the reasons behind seeking emancipation differ for each unique case, a judge will review the child’s situation and come to a decision.
Child Support Throughout College
When a child attains 18 years of age and graduates high school, Tennessee does not require child support to continue throughout college. However, parents may agree to pay costs such as tuition, fees, and other living expenses as part of their divorce settlement.
Setting up a trust fund is not mandated by state law. However, affluent parents may be required to provide for their children’s college expenses. Non-affluent parents are not required to set up a trust fund or other savings methods to provide for their child’s college education, though some may feel the need to plan for this. If possible, it is encouraged to come to a mutual agreement regarding post-high-school expenses outside the courtroom and present your plan to a judge for approval.
Child Support for Disabled Adults
Reaching the age of majority is typically when child support ends in Tennessee. Though in the circumstance that the child is disabled, child support can continue past the age of 18.
Depending on the situation, child support payments may be ordered to continue until the child is 21. Furthermore, if the disability is severe, it may be determined that continual support past the age of 21 is necessary.
Child Support Modifications
Modifying child support in Tennessee is possible. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex process of settlement adjustment to protect your finances. Find more information about child support modifications in the state here.
Ending Child Support
Depending on which comes last, when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates high school, child support payments end. This process must begin by going through the court rather than stopping payments immediately. At this stage, the noncustodial parent must file to terminate child support in family court.
Conner & Roberts, PLLC Can Help You Navigate Paying Child Support
The process and variables of paying child support can be an unclear path to walk yourself. Our team at Connor & Roberts, PLLC has 40 years of proven legal experience in family law and divorce to support you in your situation. Contact us by phone at (423) 299-4489 or online today for a free initial consultation.