Once a child emancipates, child support ceases. However, each state may have a different law regarding exactly when a child emancipates. Some are at age 18, others at age 21. The most common prevailing date of emancipation is when a child turns 18 and has graduated from high school, or up to age 19 whichever occurs first. Also, specific clauses can be included in certain divorce orders that require the noncustodial parent to pay child support until a child graduates from college. Therefore, it is important that all parents know exactly what their court order says and exactly when their child emancipates in order to avoid overpayment problems.

If child support arrears are still owed, the noncustodial parent is still required to pay on the outstanding balance including interest until it is paid in full. Some parents opt to have the current child support amount continue and be applied to the outstanding arrears balance in order to get it paid off more quickly.

Once a child does emancipate if no past due child support arrears are owed, the case can be closed. Make sure all liens are lifted, wage assignments are recalled and tax intercepts withdrawn when a case is closed. Often times overworked caseworkers can forget to lift a hold on a driver’s license, or other assets and long after the case is closed, that will come back to haunt the noncustodial parent. It is much easier to make sure all enforcement actions have been canceled promptly than to get caught up in losing your driver’s license and have to contact the CSE agency a year later to resolve an outstanding issue that should have been done previously.

Here are some tips to keep your case running smoothly.
  • Keep accurate records, copies of all correspondence, and court orders in a file at home.
  • Never deviate from the terms of the court order.
  • Never deal in cash. Keep copies of all receipts and canceled checks.
  • Always document who you speak with and the results of that conversation.
  • Follow-up to be sure required actions are done by the caseworker.
  • If you don’t get satisfactory results, don’t be afraid to complain to the caseworker’s supervisor or the director of the agency.

Useful Online Tools

Custody, Visitation & Support Modification
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State Specific - Custody/Visitation/Support Modification Forms with Instructions
This software provides all the forms and instructions to modify child custody, visitation and/or child support through the court. The modification software will help you change your court orders to reflect current conditions.

Suggested Reading
Child Support Handbook
Child Support Handbooks
These download books will explain in detail how child support works in your state. It will focus on the rights each father, mother and child has under certain laws, situations, and circumstances, and how child support is calculated using the official state child support guidelines.

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