How long do I have to pay child support?

​Whether you are just now to the realization that you will have to pay child support or whether you have just been ordered, the sinking feeling may be setting in as to the fact that you will be paying this monthly amount for quite some time. The real question is, however, when does your child support obligation end? What if your child moves in with you, what if your child moves out entirely, what if your child gets married before they graduate high school? All questions to be considered when paying monthly child support.

Understand that if nothing out of the ordinary occurs and your child continues to live with the parent receiving the child support, you have a statutory obligation to continue paying your child support. More than likely, you were ordered to pay a certain amount in child support each month due on the first day of each month and every month thereafter. You may have a court order that states the following:
“and a like payment being due and payable on the first day of each month thereafter until the first month following the date of the earliest occurrence of one of the events specified below:
​1.​the child reaches the age of eighteen years or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, subject to the provisions for support beyond the age of eighteen years set out below;
2.​the child marries;
3.​the child dies;
4.​the child enlists in the armed forces of the United States and begins active service as defined by section 101 of title 10 of the United States Code; or
5.​the child’s disabilities are otherwise removed for general purposes; or
If the child is eighteen years of age and has not graduated from high school, IT IS ORDERED that obligor’s obligation to pay child support to obligee shall not terminate but shall continue for as long as the child is enrolled-
1.​under chapter 25 of the Texas Education Code in an accredited secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma or under section 130.008 of the Education Code in courses for joint high school and junior college credit and is complying with the minimum attendance requirements of subchapter C of chapter 25 of the Education Code or
2.​on a full-time basis in a private secondary school in a program leading toward a high school diploma and is complying with the minimum attendance requirements imposed by that school.

Most people think that this obligation is something that can be changed in terms of the length of the obligation. However, the language in your orders (if exactly like the language above) is exactly in line with Texas Family Code Sections 154.001 and 154.002. Therefore, it is not only a court order but also legislation.

In order to ensure that all of your payments are kept on track and documented, it is imperative that you make all payments through the Texas State Disbursement Unit. In doing so, all of your payments will be processed by the Attorney General’s Office of Texas and then they will be distributed to the parent receiving the child support. While there have been instances in the past where problems have arisen, this is still the best way (besides actually paying your child support) to ensure you do not have a child support enforcement action filed against you.

Fast forward and let’s say that you have reached one of the above-listed instances of which your child support obligation should cease but yet your employer is still withholding money from your income and the Attorney General’s Office is still taking it. We have had some cases where parents need to take action on their part to cease the withholding so that they no longer have to pay child support (when in fact their legal duty has ended).

If you have any questions regarding your child support obligation—can it be modified, ceased, etc.—please contact Guest & Gray today to schedule your consultation.