How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

You will have to pay child support until the child is 18 or graduates from high school.

Absent agreement by the parents (Fam.C. § 3587) or a “needy” incapacitated adult child (Fam.C. § 3910), the statutory child support duty normally terminates when the child reaches age 18 (age of majority; Fam.C. § 6500)

However, as to any unmarried 18–year-old child who is a full-time high school student and not self-supporting, the parents’ statutory support obligation continues until the child completes the 12th grade or reaches age 19, whichever occurs first (thereafter, continued support is subject to the parents’ agreement). [Fam.C. § 3901(a) & (b); see also Marriage of Schopfer (2010) 186 CA4th 524, 534–535, 112 CR3d 512, 521—statewide child support guideline formula remains applicable provided it is possible to reasonably assign physical responsibility for 18–year-old high school student, even though neither parent (or any other person) has actual custody; Marriage of Everett (1990) 220 CA3d 846, 852, 269 CR 917, 919–920—error to terminate support before 18–year old child completed senior year; Politzer v. Himmelsbach (1989) 212 CA3d 295, 299, 260 CR 450, 452—H obligated to pay county-assignee per § 3901 even though child support order required support until age 18, because statute is “self-operative”

Only full-time high school attendance is necessary to trigger the § 3901 extended support obligation. The statute does not require the supported child to demonstrate a “good faith effort” to graduate as soon as possible; nor does it condition the extended support duty on the child’s participation only in those classes that “propel her or him toward graduation at the earliest possible date.” [Marriage of Hubner (2001) 94 CA4th 175, 189, 114 CR2d 646, 656—§ 3901 support duty triggered by 18–year-old’s participation in high school AFS exchange program in Japan]
Any risk that a child might abuse the support scheme by extending his or her high school education solely to continue receiving support is eliminated by the § 3901 absolute support cut-off at age 19. [Marriage of Hubner, supra, 94 CA4th at 189, 114 CR2d at 656]
Only full-time high school attendance is necessary to trigger the § 3901 extended support obligation. The statute does not require the supported child to demonstrate a “good faith effort” to graduate as soon as possible; nor does it condition the extended support duty on the child’s participation only in those classes that “propel her or him toward graduation at the earliest possible date.” [Marriage of Hubner (2001) 94 CA4th 175, 189, 114 CR2d 646, 656—§ 3901 support duty triggered by 18–year-old’s participation in high school AFS exchange program in Japan]
Any risk that a child might abuse the support scheme by extending his or her high school education solely to continue receiving support is eliminated by the § 3901 absolute support cut-off at age 19. [Marriage of Hubner, supra, 94 CA4th at 189, 114 CR2d at 656]
Only full-time high school attendance is necessary to trigger the § 3901 extended support obligation. The statute does not require the supported child to demonstrate a “good faith effort” to graduate as soon as possible; nor does it condition the extended support duty on the child’s participation only in those classes that “propel her or him toward graduation at the earliest possible date.” [Marriage of Hubner (2001) 94 CA4th 175, 189, 114 CR2d 646, 656—§ 3901 support duty triggered by 18–year-old’s participation in high school AFS exchange program in Japan]
Any risk that a child might abuse the support scheme by extending his or her high school education solely to continue receiving support is eliminated by the § 3901 absolute support cut-off at age 19. [Marriage of Hubner, supra, 94 CA4th at 189, 114 CR2d at 656]

Pursuant to § 3901, the over–18 high school student cannot be self-supporting, but the statute does not require that the child physically live with the custodial parent. A § 3901 support obligation continues even though the child is residing elsewhere while attending high school so long as the custodial parent remains responsible for the child’s care, welfare and education during the relevant period. [See Marriage of Schopfer,supra, 186 CA4th at 535, 112 CR3d at 522—18–year-old high school student’s attendance at boarding school did not change fact her stepfather was 100% “responsible” for her for purposes of calculating guideline child support (discussed further at6:42); Marriage of Hubner (2004) 124 CA4th 1082, 1091, 22 CR3d 549, 556—child lived with “surrogate parents” while participating in AFS high school exchange program in Japan]

Instead, the payee parent’s only burden is to notify the obligor parent upon the happening of a terminating condition; and if payments are accepted after a terminating condition (e.g., after the child reaches age 19 or completes the 12th grade), they must be refunded (see Fam.C. § 4007(b), ¶ 6:626). [Marriage of Hubner, supra, 124 CA4th at 1092, 22 CR3d at 55]

If you have any questions about how long do I have to pay child support, contact the Law Offices of H. William Edgar for a consultation.
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