When Does Child Support End in Florida?

April 20, 2015

Child support is an important element of any divorce involving minor children. Many people assume that the payment of child support ends when the child turns eighteen. In Florida, that is, in fact, the general rule. However, there are some significant exceptions to that rule. Additionally, the manner in which child support is terminated depends upon when the support order was entered.

Before 2010

If a child support order was entered before Oct 1, 2010, termination or modification of the order will probably require a filing with the court. If a support order was entered before 2010, it likely includes no provision to automatically terminate the support payments. This means that the child support obligation continues unless the payor parent files documents asking the court to terminate the support obligation.

When there is no provision giving a date for automatic termination of support payments, or when a parent wants to alter the amount of the payments, the support order must be modified by the court. When the court modifies a support order, the modification is retroactive to the date on which the parent filed the modification documents. However, the parent is still required to pay child support until the court issues the order modifying the payments. This means that if, for example, a parent files for modification in January, but the court does not order the modification until May, the parent must continue paying child support from January to May. But when the court orders the modification, the payee parent is required to refund all support payments made since January.

After 2010

In 2010, the law regarding the termination of child support changed. Now, the law requires that child support orders contain automatic termination provisions. This means that any child support order entered on or after October 1, 2010, must include a date on which the support payments are automatically terminated.

Florida law provides that, in general, a child support obligation ends when the child turns 18. However, this is not always the case. The most significant exception is if the child is between 18 and 19, is still in high school, and is on track to graduate before turning 19. Then child support may continue until graduation.

If the child is mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot be self-supporting, then the support obligation may continue indefinitely or for the child’s entire life. Parents may also agree upon another time to end the obligation. Child support obligations also end if a child is emancipated, meaning that the court removes the child from his or her parents’ control, before the child reaches 18, because it is in the child’s best interests. Finally, child support may terminate if the child marries, joins the armed services, or dies, or if the court determines that modification is in the child’s best interests.

If you are unsure of what your child support order provides, or if you are seeking a modification of your child support order, an experienced attorney can assist you. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.