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Paying or receiving child support can be a significant part of a family’s finances after a divorce or separation. As a parent, it’s natural to have questions about when your legal obligation to pay child support will end.

In Minnesota, the duration of child support is outlined in state statutes. Generally, child support ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. However, there are certain situations where child support may be extended beyond 18 or high school under Minnesota law.

At Martine Law, our experienced family law attorneys frequently help clients understand when their child support obligation will end. We assist parents in modifying support when circumstances change and in terminating child support orders when the legal requirements are met.

When Does Child Support Typically End?

In Minnesota, the age of majority is 18. This means that legally, adulthood begins at age 18 in our state.

Child support payments typically end when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last under Minnesota Statute 518A.26. For example, if your child turns 18 in April but does not graduate until June, you would continue paying child support through June.

Once the child reaches 18 or completes high school, whichever happens last, you must take legal steps to terminate child support in Minnesota. The obligation does not automatically end without official court action. We’ll discuss the termination process more below.

There are some other life events and circumstances where child support can end before age 18:

  • Child gets married – Support generally ends if a minor child marries, even if it’s before age 18.
  • Child joins the military – Enlisting in the armed forces typically emancipates a minor child, terminating the child support order.
  • Child becomes emancipated through a court process – Parents can petition for emancipation if their teen is living independently. This terminates the child support order before age 18.

In summary, child support obligations end when the child turns 18 and graduates high school, or upon marriage, joining the military or becoming legally emancipated.

When Child Support May Be Extended Beyond 18

While 18 is the default age cut-off for child support in Minnesota, there are some exceptions where support may be extended beyond the age of 18. Situations where courts may order continued child support include:

  • For a child still attending high school full-time – If your 18-year-old child is still enrolled in high school full-time, the court may extend child support until they graduate or turn 20, whichever comes first.
  • For a disabled child – If your child has a physical or mental disability that prevents them from being self-supporting, Minnesota courts can order child support to continue past 18. This requires filing a motion and proving the child’s disability and dependence before they turn 18.
  • For college expenses – Minnesota courts have discretion to order child support to continue past 18 to cover college expenses, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, and more. However, college support is not guaranteed in Minnesota.
  • In a written agreement – Parents can agree in writing to extend child support beyond when it would normally end. This agreement can become enforceable if adopted by the court.

Reaching age 18 or finishing high school does not automatically terminate the child support order. The paying parent or child support agency must take legal steps to end it. Otherwise, the paying parent may owe arrears if they stop making payments too early.

How to Modify Child Support When Circumstances Change

Courts understand that life changes like job loss or major illness can impact a parent’s ability to pay the current child support amount. When there’s a substantial change in circumstances, Minnesota allows parents to request a modification of the child support order.

To pursue a modification, you must file a motion with the court and prove:

  • There has been a substantial change in circumstances, such as decreased income, increased expenses, change in parenting time, etc.
  • The current child support order is unreasonable and unfair based on the changes
  • Modification would be in the best interests of the child

If approved, the judge can order a modification to increase or decrease the monthly child support obligation. This change is not retroactive, so you must keep paying the current amount until the new order takes effect.

How to Terminate Child Support

When your child reaches 18 and completes high school, you must take action to terminate the child support order and legally end your obligation to pay.

To terminate child support, the paying parent or child support enforcement agency needs to file a motion with the court asking for the current child support order to end. It’s important to calendar your child’s expected graduation date and plan termination in advance.

The motion to terminate should state key facts like:

  • The child’s 18th birthday has passed
  • The child has graduated high school or reached age 20 without graduating
  • The reasons why child support should end under MN law

Any unpaid child support arrears that accrued before termination will still need to be paid off. The court may issue a separate arrears payment order while ending the ongoing monthly obligation.

Get Legal Guidance on Minnesota Child Support

Having an experienced family law attorney help with child support issues can make the process smoother and prevent complications. The lawyers at Martine Law have extensive experience handling Minnesota child support and child custody cases for parents across the Twin Cities metro area.

Whether you need to modify, extend, or terminate child support, our attorneys take the time to understand your situation. We determine your options under MN law and represent your best interests in court. To get started on your Minnesota child support case, contact our law offices today to schedule a free consultation.