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When do child support obligations end in California?

Raising a child is a major responsibility. Parents invest a lot of time — and money — into making sure their children are happy and healthy. Even though two parents might end their relationship, parental responsibilities may not end with divorce. As such, it’s common for child support orders to be included in a divorce agreement.

Although parents and children often maintain relationships over the course of a lifetime, financial obligations generally do not last that long. In fact, every state has laws regarding the age of majority, which places time limits on court-ordered child support agreements.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, California’s age of majority is 18, but there are some stipulations. Children are considered minors if they aren’t self-supporting and are full-time high school students. However, when the child graduates from high school or turns 19 years old, he or she reaches the age of majority. At this point, courts can no longer order child support payments.

In this day and age, it may be harder to draw the line as to when parents are no longer supporting children. If children decide to attend college, they have likely reached the age of majority, but might still be financially dependent. As such, parents might be wondering how financial support for college-age children fits into divorce agreements.

The National Conference of State Legislatures indicates that California courts do not have the latitude to order financial support for children. With that said, parents can still decide to negotiate college-related expenses into their child support agreement if they see fit, but there is no legal mandate to do so.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, “Termination of Support – Age of Majority,” accessed April 29, 2014