Parents must support their children, regardless of their relationship with each other. When a child’s parents are no longer together, this obligation is expressed legally through a child support order.
If you are paying due to a child support order, you may wonder, When does child support end in Alabama? Below, The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates explains how long a child support obligation lasts, and we describe certain exceptions and other concerns parents should know if they’re paying child support.
What Is Child Support?
Under Alabama law, parents have rights and responsibilities regarding their children. One primary obligation is to support their children financially. This issue typically arises when parents are no longer together. The issue of child support is addressed in divorce proceedings, or you can bring a child support case on its own if you were never married to your child’s co-parent.
In Alabama, courts calculate child support based on the income-shares model. In a nutshell, the court combines the parents’ incomes as though they were still in the same household. Then, the court estimates how much the child would receive if the family were intact.
The court then divides this amount proportionally based on each parent’s income. The parent with the more significant income often pays the child support.
The purpose of child support is to provide for the child’s financial needs.
These include the following:
- Costs associated with the child’s living arrangements;
- Medical and health care needs, including insurance;
- School-related expenses; and
- Food, toys, books, and hygiene products.
The recipient parent should not use these payments for their own expenses.
How Long Do You Pay Child Support in Alabama?
If you are currently paying child support, you may wonder, What age does child support stop in Alabama? Typically, a parent’s obligation to pay child support ends when the child reaches the age of majority—which is 19 in Alabama.
Under certain circumstances, a court may extend the child support obligation beyond the age of 19. Generally, a court will only do so if the child has significant physical or mental disabilities that make them unable to become self-sufficient.
However, a court will not make this decision on its own. The parent receiving the support must petition the court before the child turns 19 to ask for an extension of the child support payments.
How to Stop Paying Child Support Early
Many people wonder how to terminate child support in Alabama early. Under specific scenarios, a court may end the child support obligation before the child reaches 19. If the paying parent can prove to a court that the child can fully support themselves, the court may consider ending child support payments.
Additionally, a court may end child support payments if:
- The paying parent obtains sole physical custody,
- The child gets married,
- The child enters military service, or
- The child is legally emancipated before reaching 19.
If a parent wishes to end the child support payments because of one of these reasons, they must file a petition with the court. The court may agree and end the child support payments. Or, the court might determine that the child can only partially support themselves. In that case, a judge would likely just reduce the child support payments.
How Can My Child Be Emancipated?
Some parents want to know how to emancipate their children before they reach 19. In Alabama, emancipation is very restricted. You can only petition for emancipation once the child turns 18.
Then, a court will only consider emancipation under the following circumstances:
- One of the parents petitions the court for the emancipation of the child;
- The child files the petition and has no living parent or guardian, or their parent or guardian is mentally ill; or
- The child files the petition, and the parent abandons the child for a year or more.
Even under these circumstances, a court will only grant the petition if it determines that emancipation is in the child’s best interests.
What Happens to Child Support Arrears?
Just because your child reaches the Alabama child support age limit does not mean all your child support concerns are over.
If you missed some child support payments before the child turned 19 and are in arrears, you’d still have to pay your back child support. This is true even after your child is 19. The Alabama Office of Child Support Enforcement can take action to collect your unpaid child support for up to 20 years after the date the child support was due.
Contact The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates for Child Support Questions
Alabama’s laws and procedures regarding child support can be confusing. You need expert advice and representation from an experienced Alabama family law attorney. Fortunately, The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates can help. Plus, our attorneys are highly respected by courts and clients alike. Contact us online or call (256) 859-7277 today for a free consultation.