Termination of Child Support Obligations

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Many parents wonder whether there are rules in place for the termination of child support obligations. For instance, can a parent stop paying child support if the other parent refuses to allow visitation? And what about situations where the child does not want to receive the parent's financial support and would prefer to be emancipated? Get answers to these questions before you pursue the termination of child support orders for yourself or your child.

Quid Pro Quo and Terminating Child Support

On the surface, some parents feel that it's reasonable to withhold child support when visitations stop occurring on a regular basis. But this notion can cause you a lot of trouble in court. Why? Because court-ordered child support obligations continue even when there's a problem with the relationship between the parent and the child or between the two parents. Therefore, you should not stop paying child support just because the child is no longer participating in regularly scheduled visits.

It's also important to know that the courts consider child support and visitation separately. If you have court-ordered visitation, and your ex is not cooperating with the order, you should contact the court or speak with your lawyer about your options. In many cases, steps can be taken to rectify the situation so that visits can resume.

Special Considerations 

Often, when a parent stops paying child support, it is because there is more going on behind the scenes. Has the parent lost his or her job? Is there a legitimate change in circumstances that warrants a formal child support modification? Any parent who is having difficulty making regular child support payments should contact the court that issued the original order to discuss options. This is far preferable than risking the consequences of nonpayment, which can include losing your driver's license and even serving jail time.

Emancipation of Children

In rare instances, an older child may request emancipation if she no longer desires to have a relationship with a parent. If a child becomes emancipated, the court might formally relieve a non-custodial parent of child support obligations. However, whether the court grants emancipation will depend on several factors including:

  • The Child's Age: An appropriate age will vary by state and by the court. Some courts may determine that 16 is an appropriate age, while another court might determine that 16 is too young to make such an important decision.
  • The Child's Maturity Level: The court might consider a child's ability to clearly express his desire to be emancipated as well as the reasons for emancipation, as a sign of maturity. They may also look to factors such as whether or not the child is employed or a good student.

Prior to considering emancipation, the judge will interview the child. If the child does become emancipated, the non-custodial parent's child support obligations may be terminated as well. However, courts are typically reluctant to terminate support obligations for fear the state will later need to step in and provide financial support for the child.

It's also important to know that the courts frown upon any interference in a parent-child relationship. In determining whether to terminate child support obligations, the court will consider the best interests of the child and then determine whether both parents should be able to work together to support the child's needs and emotional well-being.