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When Do You Stop Paying Child Support in Florida?


For parents in the Sunshine State who pay court-ordered child support, knowing when child support ends in Florida can be an important detail when it comes to their budgeting and financial planning. The obligation to pay child support usually ends in Florida when the child reaches age 18. Exceptions include children who have not graduated from high school by 18, emancipation, children with special needs and some other situations. The support rules in Florida resemble those in many other states. But unlike some other states, however, Florida has no built-in provision for parents to continue paying support while children attend college. If you’re considering how to pay support while also pursuing other financial goals, a financial advisor can help.

Child Support Basics

Child support is a payment one parent makes to the other to provide for a child’s needs after the end of a marriage or other relationship. Parents may agree to a child support arrangement informally, but courts often order child support payments when a couple splits up.

Laws vary among states, but the amount of the payment typically takes into account each parent’s salary, and is often set as a percentage of the income of the parent who is not the primary custodian. State laws on how long the payments last also vary, but it’s common for payments to end when a child reaches the age of majority or otherwise becomes independent of the parents. Florida generally follows this practice in regards to when child support ends, although there are some special aspects to the state’s approach.

When Does Child Support End in Florida?

When child support ends in Florida is part of court-ordered child support orders as of 2010.

Before Florida changed its child support laws in 2010, many court-ordered support orders did not specify end dates. Parents had to go back to court to get an order allowing their child support payments to stop. After the change, courts were required to include termination dates in support orders and, when the termination date arrives, the clerk of the court that ordered support is supposed to notify the state support collection agency.

Florida’s current law on child support says legal child support obligations generally end on a child’s 18th birthday. Some exceptions depend on the child’s age at high school graduation. These include:

  • If the child is still in high school after reaching age 18 but before reaching 19, support terminates at graduation.
  • If the child graduates after reaching age 19, support terminates on the child’s 19th birthday.
  • If there is not a reasonable expectation that the child will graduate by 19, support terminates on the child’s 18th birthday.

Child support obligations may also stop when a child becomes emancipated before age 18. Emancipation can occur if the child marries or enlists for military service. A child may also become emancipated if the child achieves financial independence through some other means.

Support may continue after these milestones if the parents have agreed to it. Parents may, for instance, agree to maintain support while a child attends college.

Another exception covers cases in which a child is disabled or has special needs that will keep them dependent on the parents after reaching adulthood. In these cases, court-ordered support may continue indefinitely as long as the child lives.

Child support will end in Florida on the death of the parent who is obligated to make the payments even if the child remains alive. The estate of a child support payer is not required to make ongoing support payments, although the estate will have to pay to make up for any past-due child support.

While Florida’s child support laws are similar to those in other states, there is no uniform national standard for support duration. Some states, for instance, set the age of majority at 21 rather than 18. Other states may require parents to make child support payments after the age of majority if a child is in college.

If child support is ordered by a court in another state, that state’s laws apply rather than Florida’s even if one or more parents have relocated to Florida and Florida’s child support collection agency is handling payments. The nationwide variation in support laws and the numerous exceptions make it advisable to consult an attorney specializing in this area when trying to determine when support obligations end.

Bottom Line

Ex-partners using the date that child support ends in Florida as part of their custody agreement.

Florida generally ends child support obligations when the child reaches 18. However, several exceptions apply. These include children who turn 18 before graduation from high school and children who are emancipated from their parents by marriage, military enlistment or other means. In the case of a child with special needs that will keep them dependent on parents for life, support obligations may continue indefinitely.

Child Support Tips

  • Child support is a legal obligation, and not paying it is not an option. A financial advisor can help you budget to ensure you have the money to make court-ordered support payments. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Unlike most forms of income, child support is not subject to federal income tax. That means the parent receiving child support payments does not have to report the money as income.  From the perspective of the payer, child support is not deductible, although payers may get some tax credits if they can claim the child as a dependent.

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