Many noncustodial divorced parents have extra reason to celebrate when their children finally grow up. A child who reaches the "age of majority" (typically age 18, 19, or 21) legally becomes an adult; marking the end of monthly child support.. Parents of adult children are finally free from their support obligations -- or are they?
Divorcing parents can always voluntarily agree on who pays for what - even with respect to adult children. But to the dismay of unwitting parents, some state laws require parents to pay "child" support beyond childhood. Upon a parent's request, a court can extend support to pay educational expenses while the child attends college or other post-high school education via "post-secondary educational support" or "post minority support" (collectively "post-minority support").
The laws about post-secondary support vary from state to state; some states don't require it, while others explicitly provide for it by statute. Many states allow courts to consider post secondary support on a case-by-case basis.
This article provides a basic breakdown by state of post minority support requirements. Although references are made to specific statutory and case law, readers should conduct their own independent legal research and/or consult an attorney.
Alabama Child support requirements end once a child turns 19, graduates from high school or becomes emancipated. ARJA Rule 32. One or both parents must also continue support when a child is disabled. As of 2013 parents are no longer required to pay college costs as part of support, but parents can voluntarily agree to do so. Ex parte Christopher 145 So.3d 60 (Ala. 2013).
Alaska The age of majority in Alaska is 18. Courts cannot require either parent to pay for post-majority college education. H.P.A. v. S.C.A. 704 P.2d 205 (Alaska 1985). Courts may award support for adult children who are handicapped. Streb v. Streb, 774 P.2d 798 (Alaska 1989).
Arizona Child support continues only until the child reaches majority (18). There are exceptions for disabled children and children who reach majority while still in high school. A.R.S. 25-320 The legislature did not intend the child support obligation to continue past the age of majority while a child is still in high school if the child has become emancipated for reasons other than reaching majority. Guzman v. Guzman, 183, 854 P.2d 1169. Courts will enforce contracts to provide post-minority support in a separate contract action. Solomon v. Findley, 167 Ariz. 409, 808 P.2d 294 (Ariz. 1991.
Arkansas The age of majority is eighteen. A.C.A. § 9-14-105. Once a child reaches majority, the legal duty of the parents to provide support ceases unless the child is mentally or physically disabled at the time the child reaches majority, or is still attending high-school. AR ST § 9-14-312. If still attending high school, the support obligation ends upon the child's high school graduation or the end of the school year after the child reaches 19 years of age, whichever is earlier. AR ST § 9-14-237. Towery v. Towery, 685 S.W.2d 155, 156 (1985). Turney v. Turney, 1992 WL 61671 (Ark.App.).
California The duty to pay child support continues until the child turns 18. Ann.Cal.Code § 3901. Support can continue while they are a full time high school student, not self-sufficient, until they reach the age of 19 or finish the 12th grade, whichever comes first. § 3910 allows for support of an incapacitated adult child.
Colorado Child support terminates upon marriage, entry into the military when the child attains 19. However, support can continue under the following circumstances: (I) the parties agree otherwise; (II) the child is mentally or physically disabled; (III) if the child is still in high school or an equivalent program (support continues until the end of the month following graduation. A child who stops attending high school prior to graduation and later reenrolls is entitled to support upon reenrollment until the end of the month following graduation, but not beyond age twenty-one). "If the court finds that it is appropriate for the parents to contribute to the costs of a program of postsecondary education, then the court shall terminate child support and enter an order requiring both parents to contribute . . . for the education expenses of the child." Courts can't issue orders for both child support and postsecondary education to be paid at the same time. CO ST § 14-10-115. This support for post-secondary education may not extend beyond the earlier of the child's 21st birthday or the completion of an undergraduate degree. See Marriage of Robb v. Robb, 934 P.2d 927 (Col. App. Div. II, 1997).
Connecticut Support terminates at 18. However, if the child is in high school, unmarried, and still lives with one parent, support may continue until the child completes the 12th grade or turns 19, whichever comes first. The court can require support for a child to attend up to four academic years of higher education or occupational school-up to age 23. CT ST § 46b-56(c). A court can also order support for a child with mental or physical disability until the child reaches age 21. CT ST § 46b-84.
Delaware Support continues until the child reaches the age of 18 if the child is a full time high school-student likely to graduate. Support ends at 19 or graduation, whichever comes first. D.C.A. Title 13, Chapter 5, § 501.
District of Columbia Only minor children are entitled to support. DC ST § 16-916. The courts cannot require support after the child reaches the age of majority. Norris v. Norris, 473 A.2d 380 (1984). For child support purposes, a person is considered a child until the age of 21. Butler v. Butler, 496 A.2d 621 (1985); therefore, the duty of a parent to support a child ceases once the child reaches 21. Graham v. Graham, 597 A.2d 355 (App.D.C. 1991). Under exceptional circumstances, parental support may continue past the age of majority. Nelson v. Nelson, 548 A.2d 109 (D.C. 1988).
Florida Support generally ends at 18. F.S.A § 61.14. However, support can be required past 18 for dependency because of mental/physical incapacitation prior to majority, or if the person is dependent, between 18-19, still in high school, performing in good faith and with a reasonable expectation of graduation. In that case, support will continue until 19. "[T}his section shall not prohibit any court of competent jurisdiction from requiring support for a dependent person beyond the age of 18." There is no rule forbidding an order of increased child support to finance a child's college education until they reach 21 years of age. Nicolay v. Nicolay, 387 So.2d 500 (1980). Generally, parents don't have to pay for college for their children unless they are actually dependent. Attendance at college does not necessarily render a child dependent. Slaton v. Slaton, 428 So.2d 347, (Fla. 1 Dist. App. 1983). Children who will turn 19 before they graduate from high school "are entitled to no support during their eighteenth year, even though they are in school." 686 So.2d 753, 755 (1997).
Georgia Support continues until majority, death, marriage of child, or emancipation. GA ST § 19-6-15(e). The court can order financial assistance to an unmarried or non-emancipated child enrolled in college, through age 20. Parents can contract with each other to provide for their children's educational expenses.
Hawaii Support normally terminates when the child reaches 19, but courts can require support of adult children. Notice must be sent three months before the child reaches 19 that support will end. HRS § 580-47(a). Support will then be suspended unless proof is provided by a custodial parent or adult child before the 19th birthday that the child is enrolled as a full time student or accepted as a full time student to a college or university. HI ST § 576E-14.
Idaho Support terminates at 18. ID ST § 7-1121. If a child continues education after 18 years of age, the court may order the continuation of support payments until the child discontinues education or reaches 19, whichever comes first. Walborn v. Walborn, 817 P.2d 160, 165-66 (1991).
Illinois The court can provide for educational expenses even if the children are of majority age. Application can be made after the child has attained majority, while the child is still attending high school (including beyond age 18), and for post high-school college/professional training. IL ST 755 § 5/11-1, 750 § 5/505. Expenses include room board, dues, tuition, transportation, books, fees, registration and application costs, medical expenses (including insurance), and living expenses. IL ST 750 § 5/513.5
Indiana Support not including "support for educational needs" terminates at 19 unless the child is "at least 18," not enrolled in secondary or post-secondary school and are capable of self-support. Children who are full-time students in secondary school are entitled - upon a parent's motion - to support until graduation, marriage or entry of the military. IN ST § 31-16-6-6.
Iowa Support generally ends at 18, but can extend to 19 if the child is completing high-school or similar education. IA ST §§ 599.1, 252A3. "Support" may include support for a child between 18-21 who is regularly attending an accredited school, or is, in good faith, a full time student in college, or has been accepted for admission to college and the next regular term has not begun. The trial court may order college support for children, although college support is not always required, based on consideration of parent's financial condition, child's ability to perform college work, child's age, and whether child is self-sustaining or not. In re Marriage of Baker, 485 N.W.2d 860 (IowaApp. 1992).
Kansas Support ends at 18 unless child reaches 18 prior to completing high-school, in which case it ends at 19. KS ST §§ 23-3001, 38-101. Post-secondary educational support is by agreement only.
Kentucky Support ends at 18 unless child reaches 18 prior to completing high-school, in which case it ends at 19. KY ST § 403.213. Court has no power to decree support in any other circumstances. Reed v. Reed, 457 S.W.2d 4 (1970).
Louisiana Support ends at 18 but may continue if the child is a full-time student in good-standing, enrolled in secondary school or equivalent, has not reached age 19, and is dependent upon either parent. LA ST § 9:315.22. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
Maine Support ends at 18 unless the child is in secondary school, then 19, graduation, withdrawal or expulsion from school, whichever occurs first. ME ST § 1653. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
Maryland Support ends at 18 unless child enrolled in secondary school, in which case 19 or graduation - whichever comes first. MD ST § 401.In determining whether the application of the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate in a particular case, the court may consider the terms of any existing separating or property settlement agreement or court order, including any provisions for payment of college educational expenses. MD ST § 12-202.
Massachusetts Support ends at 18 but may extend to 21 if child is living with parent while enrolled in an educational program. 4 MA ST § 7. Courts can order support for a child up to age 23 domiciled with a parent and principally dependent on that parent due to the child's enrollment in an education program, excluding educational costs beyond an undergraduate degree. Doe v. Roe, 585 N.E.2d 340 (Mass.App.Ct. 1992).
Michigan Support ends at 18 but may be extended until 19 1/2 for completion of high school, or beyond 19 1/2 by agreement of the parties. MI ST §§ 722.52, 552.605. Agreements between the parties are enforceable.
Minnesota Support ends at 18 unless still attending secondary school, then 20, or an individual who is incapable of self-support by reason of disability. MN ST § 51A.26. The parties can extend support longer if specifically addressed in the order and if parties agree to an educational trust fund for cost of post-secondary education. MN ST § 518.551.
Mississippi Support ends at 21 years of age, unless child marries or joins the military. MS ST § 93-11-65. The parties may agree to continue support beyond the age of majority, but trial courts do not have authority to order a parent to pay college expenses of a child after the child reached the age of majority. 21 is the age of majority in Mississippi.Stokes v. Maris, 596 So.2d 879 (Miss. 1992).
Missouri Support ends at 18, graduation from secondary school, or 21 - whichever is first. If a child is enrolled in higher education, the support obligation continues until the child completes his education or reaches 22, whichever occurs first. MO ST § 452.340. A father had a statutory duty to provide child support until his son completed his education, is no longer a student, or attains the age of 22. Sinclair v. Sinclair, 837 S.W.2d 355 (Mo.App.W.D. 1992). Moreover, college expenses are properly considered as bearing upon amount of child support that is reasonable in determining whether support award should be modified. Weber v. Weber, 804 S.W.2d 756 (1990).
Montana Support ends at the latter of 18 or graduation from high-school, but no later than age 19 unless child is disabled. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
Nebraska Support ends upon reaching age 19, emancipation or marriage - whichever occurs first. NE ST §§ 42-371.01, 43-2101. A "district court in a dissolution action may not order child support beyond the age of the majority of a child over the objection of any parent." Zetterman v. Zetterman, 512 N.W.2d 622, 624 (1994).
Nevada Support ends at 18, or 19 if enrolled but not yet completed high-school. NV ST § 129.010, 425.300. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
New Hampshire Support ends at 18 or completion of high-school, whichever is later - or, marriage, entry into armed forces or emancipation. NH ST § 461-A:14. Parents can agree via stipulated agreement to contribute to college or other educational expenses beyond high school - but must specify the amount of (or method of determining) the contribution.
New Jersey Support ends at 19 unless still attending high school or college or mental or physical disability, then up to age 23.. NJ ST §§ 2a:17-56.67, 2A:34-23. Support may be extended for students in a full-time post-secondary education program. NJ ST § 2A:17-56.67.
New Mexico Support ends at 18 unless child is still in high-school, then 19. NM ST § 40-4-7. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
New York Support ends at 18 but may be extended to age 21. NY ST § 413. Courts may award educational expenses and direct non-custodial parents to pay those expenses as the court directs. However, parents may not be directed to pay child support and/or contribute toward college education for children 21 or older absent express agreement to do so. Setford v. Cavanaugh, 175 A.D.2d 665, 572 N.Y.S.2d 591 (1991).
North Carolina Support ends at 18. If still in primary or secondary school when child turns 18, support may continue until age 20 or graduation, whichever is first. NC ST § 50-13.4. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
North Dakota Support ends at 18 unless still in high-school, then age 19. ND ST § 14-09-08.2. A court can order support past the age of majority if the parties agree or the court deems it appropriate. Donarski v. Donarski, 581 N.E.2d 130 (N.D. 1998); Johnson v. Johnson, 527 N.W. 2d 663 (N.D. 1995).
Ohio Support ends at 18 or while child attends high school on a full-time basis or a court order requires support to continue. OH ST V 3109.88. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
Oklahoma Support ends at 18 or if regularly attending high school or equivalent as a full-time student, until the child graduates or turns 20, whichever comes first. 43 OK ST V 112. Post-secondary support is by agreement only.
Oregon Support ends at 18 but can continue to age 21 if the child is unmarried and attending an educational facility like high school, community college, or four-year college. OR ST §§ 109.510, 107.108. A court can order a parent to pay support up to age 21 for a child regularly attending post-secondary education. In re Marriage of Crocker, 157 Or. App. 651, 971 P.2d 469 (1998).
Pennsylvania Support ends at 18 or high school graduation, whichever is later, unless emancipated at an earlier age. 23 PA ST § 4321. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled the statute requiring post-secondary educational support violated the 14th Amendment equal protection clause. Curtis v. Kline, 666 A.2d 265 (1995). However, parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Rhode Island Support ends at 18 unless still in high school, then for 90 days following graduation - but not to exceed the child's 19th birthday. RI ST § 15-5-16.2. "The court may, if in its discretion it deems it necessary or advisable, order child support and education costs for children attending high school at the time of their eighteenth birthday and for ninety (90) days after graduation, but in no case beyond their nineteenth birthday." Perreault v. Perreault, 40 A.2d 27 (1988). However, parties may contractually agree on extending support.
South Carolina Support ends at 18, marriage, emancipation or otherwise self-sufficiency. If the child is enrolled and still attending high school, support ends upon high school graduation or the end of the school year after the child reaches 19, whichever is later. SC ST § 63-3-530. Jurisdiction of the family court is vested in cases of children over 18 years of age where exceptional circumstances warrant it. A family court judge may require a parent to contribute that amount of money necessary to enable a child over 18 to attend high school and four years of college, where there is evidence that: (1) the characteristics of the child indicates that he or she will benefit from college; (2) the child demonstrates the ability to do well, or at least make satisfactory grads; (3) the child cannot otherwise go to school; and (4) the parent has the financial ability to help pay for such an education. West v. West, 309 S.C. 28, 419 S.E.2d 804 (S.C. App. 1992).
South Dakota Support ends at 18 or until 19 years of age if full-time student in a secondary school. SD ST § 25-5-18.1. Parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Tennessee Support ends at 18, unless still in high school; in which case when child graduates from high school or when child's class-mates graduate. TN ST § 34-1-102. Parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Texas Support ends at 18, marriage or until graduation from high school, whichever occurs later. TX ST §§ 101.003, 154.001. Parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Utah Support ends at 18, marriage, emancipation, armed forces, or "normal and expected graduation from high school," whichever occurs later. UT ST § 78B-12-219. A trial court's authority to extend a parent's support obligation beyond the age of 18 is discretionary and may only be exercised upon a finding of necessity and special/unusual circumstances. Balls v. Hackley, 745 P.2d 836 (1987). Courts in divorce actions may order support to age 21. UT ST § 15-2-1.
Vermont Support ends at 18; 21 if child regularly attends school, college, or university, or vocational/technical training. Trial court was empowered to increase the amount of child support being paid by the husband during the statutory period, notwithstanding stipulation incorporated in a divorce judgment providing for payment of child support beyond the statutory period. Bradley v. Bradley, 575 A.2d 190 (1990). Parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Virginia Support ends at 18 but may continue until the child turns 19 or graduations from high school, whichever occurs first. VA ST § 16.1-228, 20-60.3. Agreements extending support would be upheld although the statutory age of majority is 18. VA ST § 20-124.2. McCaw v. McCaw, 403 S.E.2d 8 (Va.App. 1991).
Washington Support ends at 18 but support may extend beyond 18 if the child remains dependent on his/her parents for support. Childers v. Childers, 575 P.2d 201 (1978). WA ST § 26.28.010. Courts may determine whether adult children are relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life, based upon: (a) age of the child; (b) Child's needs; (c) the parent's expectations for their children when they were together; (d) the child's prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities; (e) the nature of the post secondary education sought; and (f) the parents' level of education, standard of living, and resources. WA ST § 26.19.090.
West Virginia Support ends at 18, but may continue past 18 if the child is unmarried, residing with a parent and a full-time student in a secondary education or vocational program making substantial progress towards a diploma. WV ST § 48-11-103. Parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Wisconsin Support ends at 18, or 19 if the child is pursuing an accredited course of instruction leading to the acquisition of a high school diploma or equivalent. WS ST §§ 54.01, 767.511. Parties may contractually agree on extending support.
Wyoming Support ends at 18. May be extended to 20 if the child is attending high school or an equivalent program full-time. WY ST § 14-1-101, 14-2-204. Parties may contractually agree on extending support.