In most cases, a California noncustodial parent is required to pay child support until a child reaches the age of majority, which generally is 18. However, there are some situations where a child may decide to become emancipated, which means that they no longer require the support of their parents, and children may become emancipated as early as age 14 in some cases.
Some of the most common causes of a child to become emancipated before the age of majority include joining the military, getting married, becoming economically independent or abandoning the parental home. However, as long as a child is still in the care of a parent or parents, he or she cannot become emancipated.
Even if a child becomes emancipated before reaching the age of majority, child support obligations will not automatically end for the parents paying support. They will need to make a request to the court end their obligation. Additionally, there are some cases when a parent may be required to continue paying support after a child reaches the age of majority, such as if an adult child has special needs.
Child support is usually established at the point that a couple splits up. If a couple was married, it is usually decided as part of a divorce. Support can be ordered by the court or agreed to by the parties, but it is not set in stone however it was arranged. A noncustodial parent whose financial situation changes for the worse could petition the court for an order modification. Attorneys will remind their clients who are in this type of dilemma that even if a modification is granted, it will only apply to future payments and will have no effect on any past-due amounts.