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When Do Child Support Payments End? What Are Exceptions?

showing that she has no money.

Parents have a legal obligation to support their children. When couples divorce, or when an unmarried parent petitions the court, the court will decide upon both child custody and child support obligations. Illinois courts follow certain general rules in setting the limits of child support, but there are exceptions. Read on to learn about the typical term for child support and the exceptions to the general rule. Call an experienced Chicago divorce and child support modification attorney for help with an Illinois divorce or other family law matter.

The Default Rule: Child Support Ends at 18

In Illinois, child support is meant to cover the necessities for minor children. Parents are legally responsible for taking care of their children until they reach the age of maturity. While the exact confines of a child support obligation will be ordered by the court, the default rule is that child support should end when the child reaches the age of majority. Illinois considers 18 to be the age when a child becomes a legal adult, ending the parents’ legal obligation to support them. The rule is not set in stone, however.

When Does Child Support Go Past Age 18?

There are a number of circumstances under which child support will continue past the age of 18. Some exceptions will be addressed in a child support order, while some are written into the law. Situations under which child support can extend past the age of 18 include the following:

  • Still in high school. Illinois law defines a “child” for the purposes of child support to include any child under age 18 as well as any child aged 19 or younger who is still in high school.
  • College or trade school. A court may order a parent to continue child support to help a child pay for secondary education, including costs for tuition, room and board, and other related expenses.
  • Disability. If a child has a mental or physical disability, the court might order the parents to continue to pay for disability-related expenses past the age of 18.
  • Child support order. The court could order child support to continue after age 18 for a valid reason or fail to address the child support cutoff date. In either circumstance, child support might not automatically end at 18, and the paying party may need to go to court to end their obligation.
  • Arrearage or delinquency. Even though a child support obligation might end when the child turns 18, a parent who owes back payments of child support will still be obligated to pay until their arrearage is satisfied.
  • Emancipation. Child support obligations may end before age 18 if the child obtains legal emancipation from their parents.

There may be other circumstances under which child support is or may be owed after a child reaches the age of maturity. Talk to your family law attorney for assistance concerning a child support obligation.


If you are dealing with child support, divorce, child custody, spousal support, or any other family law issue in Illinois, contact the experienced, excellent Carol Stream family law attorneys at Johnson, Westra, Broecker, Whittaker & Newitt for a consultation on your case at 630-665-9600.

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