My child is turning 18 years old soon. Will my child support order terminate or be reduced automatically?
Child support ends when a child turns 18 years old or graduates from High School, whichever happens last.
So if your child turns 18 in March, but graduation is not until June, you are on the hook until graduation.
When the child is coming close to their 18th birthday, the court (Allegheny County and Washington County anyway) usually sends a letter or “emancipation inquiry” out to the parties for them to fill out and return to the court regarding the child’s birthday and expected graduation date. Once the emancipating even occurs, the court will administratively terminate the order as of the emancipation date if that is the only child on the order. If there are any child support arrears owed, the monthly obligation will continue to be charged until all arrears are paid up.
If there is an overpayment, the court may put a hold on the case prior to the emancipation date to minimize any overpayment. In that case, the child support obligor still has the child support taken from their paychecks (if the support is wage-attached), but the court holds onto the funds rather than pays them to the obligor. The court will eventually return the overpaid funds back to the obligor via check. In the alternative, the court may not put a hold on the case, and instead, schedule a conference/hearing to determine how the overpayment is going to be paid back.
If the emancipated child is not the only child on the child support order, the court will remove the emancipated child from the order, but it will not change the monthly support amount. Some people assume that if there are two children on the order and one child comes off that the support is automatically reduced in half. No – this is not what happens. In this case, it is up the obligor to file a petition requesting modification of the child support order.
Never assume that the child support will definitely decrease when one of the children is removed from the order, however. If it has been a while since the support order was entered, circumstances could have changed such that the support order would possibly go up rather than down. The incomes of the parties could have increased or decreased, the Pennsylvania Child Support Guidelines could have changed, the cost of childcare or extracurricular activities could have changed, etc.