To most, the month of June marks the commencement of Summer; however, to high school seniors, the month of June marks the conclusion of their secondary education. Roughly half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, so, out of all high school seniors graduating this month, about half of their parents are either separated or divorced.
I am sure you are still wondering, if your child is graduating from high school, are you required to continue paying child support? The answer to this question, like many other legal questions, is “it depends.” In Pennsylvania, parents are liable for support of their children who are unemancipated and eighteen (18) years of age or younger. 23 Pa.C.S. § 4321(2). Generally, but subject to limited exceptions, a parent’s duty to support a child ends when the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age and graduates from high school. Pa. R.C.P. No. 1910.19. Limited exceptions exist where the child has a disability or the parents executed an agreement requiring one parent to continue support after the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age and graduates high school. Id. To answer the question, and without considering the limited exceptions I previously discussed, no, you are not required to continue paying child support once your child reaches eighteen (18) years of age and graduates from high school; however, our analysis is not yet complete.
If my child reaches eighteen (18) years of age and graduates from high school, does my obligation to pay child support automatically terminate? The answer to this question, as was the answer to our previous question, is, it depends. Under Pa. R.C.P. No. 1910.19, the domestic relations section located in the county in which you reside shall, within six (6) months prior to the date your child reaches eighteen (18) years of age, issue an emancipation inquiry and notice to the obligee (the parent receiving child support on behalf of the child), with a copy to you, the obligor (the parent paying child support), seeking confirmation of the child’s date of birth, date of graduation, and various other information. If the domestic relations section determines the child is no longer entitled to support, or the obligee fails to return the inquiry and notice to the domestic relations section, the domestic relations section shall administratively terminate the child support order without any action on the last to occur of the date the child reaches eighteen (18) years of age or graduates from high school. But, does this happen? The answer is, not always. If your child support order does not automatically terminate, you must take action through the Court to ensure that your child support order terminates. An experienced family law firm, such as the Law Offices of Max C. Feldman, can assist you in ensuring that your child support order terminates.
On a final note, you must keep in mind that if you owe arrears (delinquent child support), terminating your child support order will not affect those arrears. Absent an agreement between yourself and the obligee, the court may require you to pay all arrears in full prior to termination of your child support order.