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When Does Child Support End?

The care and support of children from the marriage are one of the most commonly contested areas when relationships break down in New Mexico.

Matters such as child custody and child support are at the heart of many courtroom battles but are more commonly resolved without litigation, through collaboration, mediation, or arbitration.

Regardless of the agreement, many parents are curious about how long a child support arrangement lasts. Does it automatically come to an end when the child reaches the age of 18 or 19, or continue indefinitely until they are no longer dependent on the parents?

What are your rights and obligations as a payor or recipient of support to your child?

By becoming clearer on the details involved with child support, you can avoid misunderstandings and potential disputes with your ex-spouse and/or child further down the road….

Child support emancipation

When the court orders a parent to pay child support, the amount will depend on the financial resources available to them. 

The noncustodial parent generally pays child support according to the Income Shares Model, which is based on the gross income of both parents.

Regardless of the amount, it comes with an obligation to continue to look after the financial needs of a child until it is no longer required.

In New Mexico, we use the term “emancipation” to describe when a child is free from the need for child support or, in other words, becomes self-sufficient.

In most cases, the child support obligation ends at 18 but this is not automatic. Usually, a child is considered legally emancipated in New Mexico in one of three ways:

  1. By court order 
  2. When the child reaches 18 and graduates from high school, or 
  3. At the age of 19 if the child has not graduated from high school

However, there are other ways in which a child is legally emancipated, including:

  • Joining the military
  • Passing away
  • Getting married
  • Becomes legally emancipated – able to support themselves
  • Being removed from disability status by a court order

In these cases, the end of child support is warranted and the payor can stop paying it – but it still does not happen automatically.

In certain cases, child support can continue well beyond the age of 18 or even indefinitely and these are discussed later.

What is the age of majority in New Mexico?

The age of majority is the age that a person is legally considered capable of making certain decisions.

This age is established under state law. In New Mexico, this is when a child reaches eighteen, as in many states (though some states are 21).

When a child reaches the age of majority, child support can legally end unless other circumstances come into play.

Child support beyond the age of majority

In certain circumstances, the obligation for parents to pay child support extends past the age of majority.

The two most common examples are when a child enters post-secondary education and if the child has special needs.

Special needs support

If a child has a disability or special needs that make it impossible for him or her to become self-sufficient, child support may continue indefinitely.

These are considered exceptional cases where disability is viewed as economic hardship. The New Mexico court can step in and enforce arrangements for support beyond the age of majority if necessary. 

What is the procedure for ending child support?

If you feel that your obligation to pay child support should end, you cannot simply stop paying it. Your obligation does not end automatically. 

Instead, you must request for child support to end once the child reaches the age of majority or a minor child becomes “emancipated”.

Some child support orders may include language regarding the end of child support upon emancipation, but this may not end the obligation in some circumstances, and if there is a question regarding whether it ends contact one of our attorneys

Can child support be enforced until it ends?

In New Mexico, if a parent fails to follow the dictates of a child support order issued by the court the amounts can be recovered using wage garnishment. 

If necessary, the wages are first sent to the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) before being forwarded to the custodial parent. In the case of a self-employed parent, an electronic money transfer is used.

This means it is almost impossible for a parent to ignore their responsibilities as child support can be enforced.

Do you need legal assistance with child support?

Child support can become complex and special calculations are used to determine amounts according to state guidelines. It can also be confusing if your circumstances change and a modification to child support is required.

If you need legal assistance, start by calling the child support lawyers at New Mexico Legal Group at 505.876.9175 to arrange a free case evaluation.