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Child Support State of Mind

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  • Child Support State of Mind

    While many people consider getting divorced a personal failure, the cause of debilitating depression, and the potential for loss of contact with their children, these tumultuous experiences are only the beginning of the problem. Divorce tends to be far from the anticipated solution to the couple’s problems; in many cases, its analogous to the many-headed Hydra of Greek mythology, who regrew two heads for each one chopped off. When a couple gets divorced, the state acknowledges their inability to be married parents and begins its intrusion into their business, which does not let up until the child is eighteen.

    Or does it?

    Did you know that the laws governing child support and a child’s age of majority vary from state to state and sometimes from year to year as laws change? While you might assume that eighteen is the common limit, don’t. If you’re thinking about getting married, are already divorced, or if your spouse is pressing for divorce, you’d better start educating yourself and learn just when your state does count your child as an adult.

    This helpful resource- really the only one I could find- is a good place to start. Bear in mind that no page on the internet should substitute for the professional advice of a lawyer from your state who specializes in family law. The source I am using claims it was last updated in January of 2014. Laws are subject to change, and you must find the most current information for your area or the area in which you plan to live.

    While most states do consider eighteen to be a watershed year, you might be interested to know that in some states, such as Alabama, Colorado, and Indiana, the age of majority is nineteen. Many states list an age and then a caveat. For example, in Colorado, this resource states: “19 years of age unless otherwise emancipated. Emancipation may occur at any earlier age due to marriage or entry into active military.”

    In Nebraska, they have gone into such detail as to include death as an option for reaching the age of majority. The National Conference of State Legislatures reads: “19 years of age, unless the child marries, dies, or is emancipated by the court.” No matter how much of a death sentence unjust child support payments can be, one hardly thinks any parent would wish the death of their child just to end it. The fact that this is spelled out by this state is a bit grim.

    So, eighteen, nineteen, death, that must be the scope of it, right? Nope. In the District of Columbia, the termination of support is twenty-one. Twenty-one. Or until the “child” becomes self-supporting through a variety of circumstances including marriage, employment or military service. Mississippi has a flatline of twenty-one. New York does too- no extenuating circumstances.

    And, finally, the coup de grace of child support states are those continuing child support payments through the child’s post-secondary education: in Massachusetts, child support “may extend to 22 [from 18] if child is living with the parent and is enrolled in an educational program.” You can refer to this page from the same organization to see which states this applies to.

    Note that, in this group, the “child” is now considered sort of an adult, but is still entitled to a college education by the divorced parents. There are a variety of ways this can work: “College support may be in addition to child support, a part of child support, or a separate payment after regular child support ends.” Peruse this chart closely because, even if your state says “N/A,” to the right, under the “additional information” section, there may be an exception to the rule. If the recent case of a New Jersey woman suing her divorced parents to pay for her college education is any indication of a trend, there may be no limit to what divorced parents are subject to.

    Needless to say, married or unmarried, these kind of stark facts are important to take into consideration when making important life decisions, such as where to live and with whom to involve oneself. Remember, education is always your most important ally. Know the laws, and don’t break them. Know your rights, and enforce them.

  • #2
    Thank you Kate!


    • #3
      Thank you for the thank you