Child support can represent a significant financial expense for many noncustodial parents. If you’re paying large child support amounts each month, you may be wondering how long they last or if (and when) you can legally stop paying them. Here’s what Colorado law says about payment of child support and your rights and responsibilities following divorce as a noncustodial parent.
Terms of Child Support
A Colorado child support arrangement only ends when a child turns 18. There are, though, some provisions that exist in which a noncustodial parent may have to continue to pay child support, such as if a child still attends high school and lives at home, or if a child has special needs.
Colorado also requires you to take additional steps for terminating child support obligations or if a custodial parent wishes to extend child support payments beyond the previously determined end date.
Scenario 1: Age of Majority
The most common reason for terminating child support payments occurs when a child reaches the age of majority, or the age of 18. The legal guidelines set forth in Colorado stipulate that when a child reaches the age of 18, he or she is no longer a minor and can make legal decisions on his or her own.
The age of majority may occur when your child turns 18 or graduates high school, whichever is sooner. In some states, the age of majority could be as late as 21.
Scenario 2: Your Child Seeks Emancipation
A second scenario that could lead to the legal termination of child support occurs when a minor child seeks legal emancipation. When your child seeks emancipation from you and your ex-spouse, he or she follows a legal process that states he or she can become self-sufficient. If the courts grant emancipation, he or she will no longer require financial support from either of you. If a court grants legal emancipation of your minor child, you are no longer under any legal obligation to provide child support.
Scenarios That Include Support Beyond the Age of Majority
Certain stipulations may exist that require or compel you to provide support beyond the age of 18. These scenarios include:
Mandated College Support
In some instances, the state will allow your child support payments to continue, even after your child reaches the age of majority. This occurs when most of a child’s support applies to his or her education, such as attendance in a college or university or another post-secondary institution. You and your ex-spouse may work this out in your divorce decree and include provisions for it in a child support agreement.
The courts may make an exception beyond the age of majority if your child has special needs. The courts, in general, view a disability as an economic hardship that allows the custodial spouse to receive additional support, even beyond the age of majority. The situation can vary depending on the degree of your child’s disability, the amount required to adequately meet his or her needs, and more.
Child Support Agreements Are Legally Binding
After a divorce, there is little you can do to legally terminate child support. You have a financial obligation to support your child until he or she reaches the age of majority unless one of the preceding circumstances or special situations applies. In fact, it’s more common for child support to extend beyond the age of majority than to terminate before it. Even if you experience a significant loss in expected income, the courts will adjust your child support payments to reflect your current financial situation, not terminate it. Child support arrangements are legally binding, and you must carefully adhere to their terms.