Child support usually ends when the child reaches the age of majority. In Alabama, nineteen (19) is the age of majority. Parents typically will be on the hook for child support until the child reaches 19 in most circumstances, but it can be modified. It is more likely that you would be able to get the child support modified than to get it terminated. Like most things with the law, it depends on the circumstances.
Child support is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent after the parents are divorced and custody is awarded. The intent of the law is that the parents would jointly be spending money on their children if the parents were still married, so they should continue to do so after they are divorced. Child support can take on different shapes, however, than just taking money out of your check every month. It could also be an arrangement where the non-custodial parent pays for the health insurance of the child, their education tuition, or their sports uniforms.
Alabama uses a child support model called “income shares” to calculate how much child support should be paid by the non-custodial parent. The formula compares each parent’s gross income, then it looks to other financial obligations of the parents (things like other alimony payments, health insurance, and child care). The court takes those things into consideration, then determines the amount of child support that is appropriate based on what the outcome of the formula produced. The court must use the established child support guidelines, unless the court finds the parents have come to a fair, written agreement on their own and are both willing to abide by the terms of their mutual agreement. If you contact a local divorce lawyer they can run these guidelines for you or you can go online and sometimes find a child support calculator that is fairly accurate sometimes.
If the child is still under 19, you can request a modification in child support whenever a change in circumstances occurs. Child support modifications are governed by Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Judicial Administration. Generally, a court will consider a modification request if a parent’s income changes by more than 10%. Other situations, like a parent paying a lot of money for a child’s medical care, can also warrant reconsidering child support amounts.
Once the petition is filed a hearing will be set in court to consider the petition. You and the child’s parent will have a chance to make your case to the court about why there should or should not be a modification in the amount of child support being paid. Make sure to bring any documents that could serve as evidence to the hearing, such as pay stubs, W-2s, income tax returns, bank statements, and any extraordinary bills you may have incurred in caring for your child. In deciding whether to award a modification of child support, the court must consider whether you proved a “material change in circumstances that is substantial and continuing.”
One of the most common reasons a court would extend child support beyond the age of 19 is if the child is disabled. Child support does not end at 19 if the child is unable to care for themselves due to physical or mental disability. The law has gone back and forth on parents helping adult children through college. Currently, per Christopher v. Christopher, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in 2013 there is no requirement for a parent to pay tuition, fees, books, room/board, or other such expenses for their adult children in college. Parents can, of course, make their own agreements and arrangements about those expenses in an easy uncontested divorce, but it is no longer an extension of child support.
There are only a few instances where child support would be outright terminated. Generally it would have to be one of the following circumstances: Non-custodial parent loses/forfeits his or her parental rights, non-custodial parent obtains physical custody of the child, non-custodial parent requests the child be emancipated, the child reaches the age of majority, or the child dies.