When Can Child Support Stop in North Carolina?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

December 19, 2018

Child support will often cease when a child reaches the age of 18, but there are special circumstances that may change this requirement. If you are asking yourself, “when can child support stop,” speak directly with a North Carolina child custody attorney at Breeden Law Office for the answers to all your child support questions.

Many family situations are unique, and will vary depending on several factors. We can help you figure out if you can terminate your child support payments early, or if a modification can be requested to help you catch up. To schedule a consultation with an experienced North Carolina family lawyer, contact us today at (919) 661-4970.

How is Child Support Calculated?

Fathers and mothers are equally responsible for their minor children’s support under North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) § 50-13.4. They are responsible for meeting each child’s need for “reasonable” health, education, and maintenance. Since the custodial parent assumes most of the living costs for the child, the noncustodial parent maintains responsibility for support payments. In general, child support is calculated based on:

  • The gross income of each parent
  • The number of children involved
  • Health insurance and health care costs for the children.
  • Child care costs
  • Other extraordinary expenses

When Can Child Support Stop?

Most child support orders terminate when the child turns 18-years-old, unless the child is still in high school. The payments may then continue until the child is 20-years-old if they are making good progress toward graduation. However, before the child turns 18, support may terminate upon:

In addition, you may file a motion to modify the amount of child support you pay under several circumstances, but the success of the motion will depend largely on your family court judge. The following factors may influence a judge to revise your order:

  • A significant change in your living circumstances
  • An increase or decrease in your income

It’s important to note that other factors can influence the court’s decision to modify your child support agreement. Per NCGS § 50-13.4(c),

“if, after considering the evidence, the Court finds by the greater weight of the evidence that the application of the guidelines would not meet or would exceed the reasonable needs of the child considering the relative ability of each parent to provide support or would be otherwise unjust or inappropriate, the Court may vary from the guidelines.”

What If My Child is Disabled?

Noncustodial parents in North Carolina are required to pay for the support of a mentally or otherwise disabled child past the age of 18, if the child is still in high school. If the child is not in high school, then support would terminate at 18 years of age. If you choose to, however, you may continue to pay what you can to help your child. A voluntary agreement can be made between the parents once the court-ordered child support is terminated.

What If I Have Fallen Behind on Payments?

If you have been appointed a court worker, they will follow up with you if you fall behind on payments. If your ex files a contempt proceeding with Child Support Services, the court can garnish your wages, withhold tax refunds, or file a claim against your property. If a judge believes you are willfully defying the order, they may decide to put you in jail.

If your life changes, filing a motion to modify your order is the proper way to deal with the situation, and shows the court that you are making a good-faith effort to fulfill your financial obligations to your children.

Call an Experienced North Carolina Child Support Lawyer

If you are asking yourself, “when can child support stop,” you need to reach out to an experienced North Carolina family law attorney. It is hard to say when child support payments should be terminated in your unique situation without sitting down with a lawyer. At Breeden Law Office, Attorney Jonathan Breeden provides personalized service for every client. He understands support proceedings can be challenging on everyone involved, and he is prepared to keep you informed every step of the way.

To schedule an initial consultation, contact us today at (919) 661-4970.


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