When Does Child Support End in Florida?

Parents paying child support often find themselves wondering, “When does child support end in Florida?” In Florida, child support typically ends when a child turns 18. There are, however, some exceptions that may extend support obligations if your child is enrolled in high school or has special needs. 

The Orlando child support lawyers at O’Mara Law Group can assist you in understanding how Florida’s child support laws apply to your situation. Call (407) 634-6604 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.

How Long Do You Have To Pay Child Support in Florida?

Your obligation to pay child support in Florida generally lasts until your child turns 18. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule that apply in certain cases. 

It is also important to note that parents always have the option to extend child support for their children beyond the age of 18. Many parents choose to do so to help their children pay for college or certain health expenses. Our Orlando family law attorneys can help you understand your legal options as you find the best child support arrangement for your family.

When Can Child Support Continue Past Age 18?

Child support obligations generally end when a child turns 18. However, two notable exceptions exist for children enrolled in high school beyond that age or who have special needs. Our family law attorneys can advise you on how these exceptions apply to your child support obligations.

Rule for Termination of Child Support in Florida

Courts impose child support requirements in court orders. Florida law mandates that every child support order explicitly state when child support begins and ends. The default termination date for a child support order is the child’s eighteenth birthday.

Specific Scenarios for Child Support Termination

Child support termination can become complicated. These include situations involving multiple children, early-in-the-year birthdays, or high school graduation timing. No matter the circumstances, our Orlando child support lawyers are standing by to help you understand your child support obligations.

Multiple Children and Step-Down Orders

The purpose of a step-down order is to provide a clear, predictable plan for both parents, avoiding the need for multiple court visits to adjust child support as each child becomes an adult. 

Consider a scenario where a non-custodial parent is paying child support for three children: ages 16, 14, and 10. The court, acknowledging that support requirements will decrease as each child reaches adulthood, might implement a step-down order as follows:

This step-down approach allows for a gradual reduction in child support payments, reflecting the reduced financial burden on the non-custodial parent as each child ages out. It also provides financial predictability and stability for both parents, reducing potential conflicts and the need for legal intervention to adjust support orders.

Impact of Birthdays and High School Graduation Timing

Child support obligations in Florida are also influenced by a child’s birthday and high school graduation date. If a child turns 18 early in the school year but is still enrolled and expected to graduate before they turn 19, your support obligation may continue until graduation. 

You may face a challenge if your child turns 19 during their senior year. This is because a court cannot order more child support for a child who turns 19 before graduation. This situation illustrates the importance of drafting child support agreements that account for birthdays and expected high school graduation dates. 

Parents can always agree to extend child support, but this requires discussions between the parents. Our Florida child support lawyers can help you take birthdays and high school graduation dates into account.

Court-Ordered Modifications to Child Support in Florida

Florida courts have the authority to order child support modifications. A court may modify the amount, terms, and conditions of an existing child support order if it is in the child’s best interests or if there has been a substantial change in circumstances. 

For example, a Florida court may consider your child’s health, education, general welfare, or special needs when determining whether to increase or decrease the amount of child support you owe or the date on which your support obligation will terminate. 

Parents must petition the court to change a child support order. They will have the burden of proving a change is warranted.

Retroactive Child Support in Florida

Courts may impose retroactive child support orders if you do not keep up with payments over time. The maximum time timeline for retroactive child support payments in Florida is 24 months. The overdue amount may be paid in one lump sum or in installments.

Unpaid Child Support After the Child Reaches 18

Again, your obligation to pay child support does not always end when your child turns 18. If you have unpaid child support, you remain legally obligated to pay that debt. There is no statute of limitations for collecting unpaid child support in Florida, so your unpaid support will be enforceable indefinitely.

The Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Program assists in enforcing and collecting unpaid child support. The program provides statewide child support services and collected over $1.5 billion for families in 2022. 

If you fail to pay child support, it will not go unnoticed. Florida courts take unpaid support cases very seriously. Courts can garnish your wages, seize your tax refunds, or place liens on your property to collect unpaid amounts.

Trust the Team at O’Mara Law Group and Contact Us Today

Navigating Florida’s child support laws can be confusing. Our Orlando child support lawyers at O’Mara Law Group are standing by to help.

Our attorneys know how to resolve child support matters in and out of court and can advise you on child support obligations, draft child support agreements, and negotiate child support termination dates in divorce agreements. Call (407) 634-6604 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.


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