How Long Must You Pay Child Support in Virginia?

Thanks to Scott Bucci of Bucci & Dix for this valuable information about child support.

By: Scott Bucci

The average parent might assume that child support only needs to be paid for as long as his child is, in fact, a child. This assumption is partially correct: The general rule is that when a child turns 18, they have reached “the age of majority,” they are a legal adult, and their parents no longer have a legal duty to support them.  However, this is only a general rule, and parents should be aware of several situations in which it does not apply.

First, the parties negotiating the child support can agree to extend the duration of the child support past the child’s 18th birthday. It is important to note that while the parties can agree to end support after the child’s 18th birthday, they cannot agree to end support before the child’s 18th birthday.

Another situation that results in a deviation from the general rule is when the child is crippled or incapacitated and unable to earn a living. In this situation, the parent must continue to support the child regardless of the child’s age. The third exception to the general rule applies when the child is a full-time high school student, not self-supporting, and lives in the home of the parent seeking support. If all of those requirements are met, the supporting parent must continue to pay until the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever comes first.

All of the previous scenarios result in the extension of the parent’s duty to pay child support. However, the duty can also be cut short if the child is emancipated.  Emancipation essentially means that the child is completely free from the care, control and custody of her parents before turning 18. A court will find that a child is emancipated if the child is over the age of 16 and has entered into a valid marriage, is on active duty in the armed forces of the United States, or willingly lives separate from his parents and is able of supporting himself and handling his own financial affairs. Once the child is emancipated, the parents are no longer legally required to support the child.

The description of these exceptions is only a quick overview of the very complicated rules that govern child support and related issues. Contact a lawyer before making any legal decisions, and always make sure you have the most current information, as laws can (and often do) change.

Do you have more questions about child support, child custody or other issues? Contact Bucci & Dix. It may save you a lot of time AND money.

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Rhonda is the mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to five wonderful grandchildren – and our only grandmother on staff. She spent 25 years in corporate healthcare managing prenatal and disease management programs. She is the Content Manager for Richmondmom and contributes her expertise as both a mom and grandmother – while sorting out the many opportunities for our valuable advertisers.