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Does child support end at 18?

You and your spouse decide to split up when your child is 15. You make more money than your spouse -- now your ex -- and so you're ordered to pay child support. How long does it last? Are you just waiting out those three years until your child turns 18, or could it go even longer than that?

In North Dakota, the cutoff typically is at 18. That's when your child is considered a legal adult and your support is no longer needed. Even if the child lives with your ex, there is no obligation for either parent to support an adult child. Your ex can keep doing so if he or she would like, of course, but your obligation ends.

There are exceptions. For instance, you could be ordered by the court to pay more in child support if your child has a disability. The child then needs extra care and, despite legally being an adult, may not be able to support himself or herself.

School can also play a role. For example, if your child is 18 but is still in high school -- turning 18 in September, for example, at the beginning of the school year -- then you may have to pay until graduation. If the child turns 19 and has still not graduated, then your obligation ends.

Generally speaking, you don't have to pay support for a child who goes to college. However, experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures do note that states may have the power to order you to do so in specific situations.

This gives you a rough idea of your obligations after child support is ordered, but it's very important to dig into this and understand your rights and legal obligations. Financially, the impact of a support order can be enormous, and the more you know, the better.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, "Termination of Support- Age of Majority," accessed Jan. 13, 2017

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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