When Does Child Support End?

When there are children from a marriage, child custody and support matters are usually central to the divorce.

Just because parents separate, their joint legal responsibilities to care for and support their children do not end. The child’s financial needs must be met by both parents fairly and equitably according to the financial resources available.

By understanding more about the child support laws in New Mexico, you can discuss the matter with your ex-spouse in an informed way and seek a workable arrangement in the best interests of the children, while avoiding disputes.

If you are unable to agree through discussions, collaboration or mediation, the New Mexico courts will need to order child support with a strict interpretation of the applicable laws.

With child support arrangements, parents are often unsure when the obligation ends — and if it happens automatically at the age of 18 or if an application to the court is needed.

What is “child support emancipation”?

In New Mexico, we use the term “emancipation” to describe when a child becomes self-sufficient. This means that child support is no longer required.

Parents have a legal obligation to look after the financial needs of a child until support is no longer required. This parental obligation cannot be waived in New Mexico.

In most cases, “child support emancipation” happens when the child reaches the age of 18 but that is not always the case.

Generally speaking, a child in New Mexico is considered legally emancipated in one of three ways:

  • By court order
  • At the age of 18 (if he/she has graduated from high school)
  • At the age of 19 (if he/she has not graduated from high school)

However, other ways in which a child can become emancipated include:

  • Passing away
  • Joining the military
  • Getting married
  • Becoming legally emancipated (demonstrating that they can support themselves)
  • Removal from disability status by a court order

In such cases, a parent can stop paying child support but in other cases, it may continue well beyond the age of 18.

If there is any confusion about this, it is best to discuss your situation with a qualified family lawyer or divorce lawyer.

What is the age of majority in New Mexico?

Child support emancipation is often triggered at the “age of majority”. This is the age at which a child is legally considered capable of making certain decisions.

This age varies from state to state. In New Mexico, the age of majority is set at 18.

Does child support emancipation always mean the end of support payments?

According to New Mexico child support guidelines, payments may end when a child turns 18 (or 19 if he/she is in high school). So, child support generally ends then.

Beyond that age, child support can only be ordered and enforced by the court if there is a written agreement between the parents to extend child support. For instance, if the parents agree to fund the child’s college education, they can pay support voluntarily and a signed agreement to that effect will allow the New Mexico courts to enforce it.

If a child has a physical or mental disability and cannot become “self-sufficient”, the child support obligation may continue indefinitely.

If child support arrears (unpaid support from the payor parent) are outstanding after the child turns 18, he/she can petition the court to force the payor to pay the arrears.

What is the procedure for ending child support?

Child support is normally ended when the child is legally emancipated at the age of 18 or 19. However, it can also be ended before then by court order if necessary.

No parent should stop paying child support before the date of “emancipation” without applying to the court and having the appropriate order issued.

If you feel that the present arrangement is unfair, you should apply to the New Mexico courts for a child support modification.

If you believe that child support should no longer be due because the child has reached the age of majority, you must request it to end with the court.

Get help with child support in New Mexico

Child support can be a complex and emotional issue. Calculating support depends on several factors and it helps to be clear on your financial obligations — including when payments can end — if you are presently going through a separation or divorce.

Talking your situation through with a divorce lawyer at Legal Solutions of New Mexico can help facilitate a smooth child support process.

Start with a free consultation. Call 505-445-4444 or email us.