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Support for Children Over 18 – When do You Owe It?

Support for Children Over 18

In Louisiana, the obligation to pay support for children usually ends when they reach 18. There are important exceptions to this rule.

Your 18 year old continues to get child support if:

He or she is a “full-time” student in a “secondary school” in “good standing”.

The term “full time” is not defined. Different schools may have different definitions of “full time”. It’s important to check with the school’s administration.

The term “secondary school” generally means schooling beyond elementary school. It includes trade and vocational schools. It may include home schooling if the person doing the schooling has complied with Louisiana law for home schools.

He or she is in good standing. The law does not define what “good standing” means. At least one court has decided that it means the child is making good grades.

If your child graduates after reaching age 18 but before reaching age 19, your support obligation ends on graduation day.

Regardless of whether he or she is in school, once your child is 19 years old, your obligation to support him or her ends.

Your 18 year old gets child support to age 22 if:

He or she suffers from a “developmental disability”, as defined in R.S. 28:451.2, until he attains the age of twenty-two. To get support, the child must be a full-time student in a secondary school.

The definition of “developmental disability” is very complicated and includes many factors. For example, the condition must be “severe and chronic”. It must show itself before the child is age 22. It must probably continue indefinitely. It must greatly limit the child’s ability to care for him or herself, speak or understand words, make a living, and be independent.

If a child has a “developmental disability”, support ends at age twenty-two.

Your 18 year old still gets child support indefinitely if:

Before age 18, he or she became mentally or physically disabled.

The disability is so severe that he or she is incapable of self-support.

He or she requires substantial care and personal supervision.

Note: The term “disability” does not include substance abuse or addiction.

If you have a child with a severe disability, your obligation to pay child support may continue indefinitely.

Your 18 year old still gets support if you have promised to pay it:

Sometimes, divorcing parents enter into agreements in which they promise to pay for a child’s expenses beyond age 18. For example, a divorced parent may agree to pay for tuition at a child’s college or vocational school. If you wish to enter into this kind of agreement, consider whether you want conditions attached to your payments. You may want to limit the schools the child attends and end payments if the child’s grade point average falls below a certain number.

The amount you pay may not go down even if one of your children is 18:

If there is a dollar amount per child, when the oldest child reaches 18 (or 19 if the conditions above apply), the award for that child ends automatically. However, if the judgment has one figure for both children (for example, $1,000/month for Dick and Jane), $1,000/month is payable for Jane even though Dick is 19! This kind of judgment is sometimes called an “in globo” award.

If you are paying an “in globo” award, you may have to go back to court to get the monthly payment reduced. If you’re making a lot more money at that point in time, it may not be much of a reduction. If you add in attorney’s fees and costs, you might be better off with the original “in globo” amount.

If you have two or more children, ask your lawyer if you should put a specific amount per child in the judgment. There may be situations in which one dollar amount for two children is best especially if you are the person paying.

Consult with a lawyer before you stop paying your child support. What you spend in a consultation fee may save you a trip back to the courthouse.

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