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Termination of Child Support

KRS 403.213(3) states:

(3) Unless otherwise agreed in writing or expressly provided in the decree, provisions for the support of a child shall be terminated by emancipation of the child unless the child is a high school student when he reaches the age of eighteen (18).

In cases where the child becomes emancipated because of age, but not due to marriage, while still a high school student, the court-ordered support shall continue while the child is a high school student, but not beyond completion of the school year during which the child reaches the age of nineteen (19) years.

Provisions for the support of the child shall not be terminated by the death of a parent obligated to support the child.

If a parent obligated to pay support dies, the amount of support may be modified, revoked, or commuted to a lump-sum payment, to the extent just and appropriate in the circumstances. Emancipation of the child shall not terminate the obligation of child support arrearages that accrued while the child was an unemancipated minor.

[Emphasis added.]

Generally, the end of a party's child support obligation is set out either in the divorce settlement agreement OR under the statute (KRS 403.213).

In Kentucky, there is no statutory obligation for either parent to finance their child's college education, though it is possible for the settlement agreement to include provisions to that effect.

A number of "triggers" can mark the end of a parent's statutory obligation to pay child support:

  • The child turns 18 and is no longer in high school;
  • The child gets married (which would require parental consent);
  • The child enlists in military service (which would require parental consent);
  • The child obtains from the Court an order of emancipation; or
  • The death of a minor child.

If the child turns 18 but is still in high school, then the parent's statutory obligation to pay child support will continue until the end of the school year following the child's 18th birthday, but no longer than the child's 19th birthday.

"Emancipation" explained

In Kentucky, a child is usually considered an adult when he or she turns 18.  This is usually an automatic status change for the child.  At 18, the parents no longer have legal authority over their child but the exception is when an 18-year-old child is still attending high school (explained above).

A child with a physical or other serious disability may be found by the court to be "unemancipated" and will dependent upon the natural parents long past the chronological age of majority.  For example, a child with Downs Syndrome would likely be determined to be unable to provide for himself or herself and found by the Court to be "unemancipated".  In such a case, the parents' obligation to provide for the child and for one of them to pay child support to the other may continue indefinitely.

If the parents consent to a child under the age of 18 getting married, that child is considered to be emancipated.

If the parents consent to a child joining the Armed Forces before turning 18, that child is considered to be emancipated.

A person under 18 can also be emancipated by an order of a court of competent jurisdiction.

CAUTION:  If you are under a court order to pay child support and you believe your child has become emancipated for some reason other than him or her reaching age 18 or completing the school year following the 18th birthday, do NOT assume that your child support obligation has terminated.

We strongly recommend people in such situations consult with an experienced Family Law attorney to determine whether it is appropriate to seek an order of the Court confirming the termination of child support obligations.  Failure to do so places the parent with the obligation at risk of falling into arrears or even to criminal prosecution.

ALSO, an informal agreement between the parties regarding the termination or modification of child support does not change the enforceability of a lawful child support order.  We recommend against relying upon such an arrangement and to instead consult with a Family Law attorney to properly make an adjustment to an existing child support order.


Return to our main Custody & Visitation page to learn more about child custody, visitation and parenting schedules