Child support obligations can be a complicated matter, especially as the child gets older and appears to need less support. Situations can shift due to extenuating circumstances with the parent or child’s financial situation or depending on the terms of the divorce decree or child custody agreement. However, altering or ending a child support obligation requires additional motions filed within Oklahoma courts and considerable time and effort to ensure the agreement is favorable for all involved. In these cases, consulting with a skilled Oklahoma City child support attorney is necessary to ensure your and your child’s best interests are upheld.
Factors Affecting the End of Child Support in Oklahoma
Knowing when your child support agreement will end is crucial whether you are the child support payer or the custodial parent. In particular, you may need to take steps to terminate child support before its natural end date or extend child support past its conclusion. If you are caught unaware, you may end up paying child support for longer than needed or find your child without crucial financial support when they need it the most.
In Oklahoma, a child support obligation continues until one of the following situations occur:
- The child reaches the age of majority. In the United States, statutes dictate the end of a child support obligation once the child reaches the age of majority. The age of majority is defined as the age state law defines an individual as a legal adult able to make legal decisions for themselves. In Oklahoma, the age of majority is 18; however, if an 18-year-old is still attending high school, child support must continue until the child either graduates or turns 20, whichever occurs first.
- The child becomes emancipated. In Oklahoma, child support must continue for a minor child unless the minor becomes emancipated and is self-supporting before reaching the age of majority. Emancipation of a minor in Oklahoma requires a court process and is generally limited to situations when the child gets married or joins the military before reaching the age of majority. However, it is crucial to investigate emancipation cases individually to determine whether the child support order remains in place.
Factors That May Extend an Oklahoma Child Support Order
While most child support obligations end once the child turns 18 and graduates from high school, as noted above, some circumstances may result in the extension of a child support order beyond the age of majority. Such circumstances may include:
- The child is disabled or otherwise has special needs. If a child requires substantial care and supervision due to a physical or mental disability, and if the disability (or its cause) existed before the child’s 18th birthday, child support may continue beyond age 18. Depending on the situation, either the custodial parent or the child (if 18 or over) may receive the child’s support payments.
- The child is attending college. Although Oklahoma does not currently give the courts the power to extend child support orders through the college years, many parents come to an agreement outlining continued support through college. If such an agreement is included in your child support order, Oklahoma courts will enforce it.
Ending or Modifying Child Support in Oklahoma
When a child support obligation ends according to the factors listed above, the payments will not end automatically. The parent responsible for making the payments must make an official request through the state of Oklahoma to end their obligation based on the child reaching the age of majority or becoming emancipated.
If either parent experiences a change in circumstances that affects their ability to pay child support or increases the need for child support, you must similarly reach out to the state of Oklahoma. For example, if you lose your job, become disabled, get married, or otherwise experience a significant income change, you must request a child support modification order—a judicial order that can alter the child support order. Assuming child support payments will continue, end, or adjust as needed can result in missed payments and legal action.
Seek an Experienced Oklahoma City Child Support Attorney
When your child support order’s end date is in question as a parent with a child support obligation, you risk overpayment or falling into arrears. As a custodial parent, you risk losing support when your child needs it the most. To ensure that you pursue a fair end date or request an extension or early termination of child support through Oklahoma family court, it is essential to seek the guidance of an Oklahoma City family law attorney like Stange Law Firm. Our attorneys will work diligently to ensure you achieve a child support agreement beneficial to you and your child. Call us at (855) 055-0595, or request an initial consultation online.