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How to Terminate Child Support Obligations when Children Become of Age or Graduate

Now that many graduates of the class of 2021 are officially "leaving the nest," including local Southlake Carroll Dragon graduates, parents who have offered financial assistance through child support are considering how to end that support. Child support in Texas can be straightforward and easily collected and distributed until the child either turns 18 or graduates from high school (at which time it is proper to terminate child support in Texas). The child support order, withholding, and payment systems make paying and receiving support simple. However, some people make their arrangements outside of the Court system, and if there is a co-parenting or personal breakdown of relationships, it becomes necessary to address child support duties with a lawyer, in Court. At a hearing to set current support or calculate retroactive support and past due arrears, a judge can make a ruling, or the co-parents can enter into an agreement to be presented to the Court to become an order.  

Terminating child support obligations is NOT automatic. While the obligation to pay may naturally terminate on the date of the child turning 18 or graduating from high school, there is still a Court procedure to terminate support obligations and make plans to settle on the payments any amounts outstanding. 

Got COVID-19-related income issues? See our recent article, COVID-19 Child Support Issues and Options.

About Texas Child Support Withholding Orders and Payments

Child support in Texas is calculated based on a percentage of the average monthly net resources of the noncustodial parent and the number of children for whom the custodial parent receives child support payments. Child support is ordered for the benefit of the child and their general, medical, and dental needs and expensive. When the Court orders child support to be paid, the judge uses a Child Support Income Withholding Order that is sent to the employer of the parent paying support. The among of child support is withheld from that obligor’s paycheck and is sent to the Texas Attorney General Child Support to Division for direct distribution to the parent receiving support. 

When Can Child Support Payments be Terminated in Texas?

The Texas Family Code determines when the duty to pay child support ends. The noncustodial parent paying child support is responsible for payments until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school unless there is another agreement in writing and ordered by the court that uses different dates to terminate support. 

While reaching adulthood and graduation from high school are the two most common grounds for terminating child support, there are other reasons child support payments can be terminated in Texas law. Additional grounds are the marriage or death of a child, or the removal of disabilities if the child is or was found to have disabilities. The Code also provides for child support termination if the child enlists in the armed forces. And in cases that genetic testing proves the obligor is not the child’s genetic father, the obligation to pay support is terminated.  

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How to Stop Child Support Payments in Texas? It Is Not Automatic.

When a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, contact the family law firm to begin the procedure to terminate child support payments. Just because the obligation “terminates” upon a qualifying event, that termination needs to be done legally, through the Court, to stop the income withholding. The payments for child support obligations are collected by the Texas Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division. The attorney files a Petition to Terminate Withholding for Child Support and serves the filed copies of the same with the other parent.  

At a hearing on the petition to terminate child support, the Court will review the status of child support payments and order the employer to terminate withholding for support. Assuming that the child support payments are current, and it is verified that the child reached the age of 18 or graduated from high school, the payment obligation ends. However, there may be back owed past-due child support obligations and those arrearages must be addressed.  

What Happens with Past Due Child Support, Arrears, Interest, and Retroactive Support

Texas child support law states that the Court has the power and authority to take enforcement action for any back child support still owed. The past-due amounts are called arrears. At a hearing to terminate child support, the Court will likely order the arrears to be paid. If the current child support withholding order includes an amount paid monthly towards arrears, that amount may continue, or it could be increased to catch up quickly and become current. The incentive for a child support obligor to pay support on time is the interest that accrues on missed child support payments, at the rate of six percent.  

Retroactive support can be ordered by the Court if the parent had not previously been ordered to pay support or was not a party to the suit in which child support was calculated and ordered. There are all kinds of reasons that child support payments were not set and ordered. There are times that unmarried parents make informal, direct payments, and have different arrangements from what they could expect by going through court. In some situations where there is a dispute about the amount paid in child support in determining arrears and retroactive support, there might be an overpayment in which case the obligor could ask the court for an order to return support monies and attorney’s fees if appropriate.  

Questions about child support orders, obligations, and to terminate child support in Texas? Call the Barrows Firm in Southlake (817) 481-1583.