Child Support After 18 in Ohio

18th Birthday CandleWhen does child support terminate in Ohio? If you said when the child turns eighteen, you’re right—mostly. Child support does not automatically terminate when a child turns eighteen. In some cases, child support can continue until a child turns nineteen, or even longer. Here’s what you need to know about child support after eighteen in Ohio.

When Can Child Support Extend Beyond Age 18 in Ohio?

Ohio Revised Code Section 3119.86 sets forth three situations in which child support may continue beyond the age of eighteen:

  • The child is mentally or physically disabled and is incapable of supporting or maintaining himself or herself;
  • The child’s parents have agreed to continue child support beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday and this agreement was incorporated into the decree of divorce or dissolution; or
  • The child is continuously enrolled in and regularly attending classes at an accredited high school on a full time basis.

Even if one of these situations exist, child support provided for in a court order generally will not automatically continue beyond the a child’s nineteenth birthday. To continue child support in the case of a disabled child or parental agreement, the court order or decree must specify that it will do so.

If child support extends beyond a child’s eighteenth birthday based on the parents’ agreement, a court will not extend support beyond the period agreed upon by the parents. For instance, if the parents agreed that child support would continue until age twenty, the parent receiving child support cannot later ask the court to extend support until age twenty-one.

What Should I Do if I Think My Child Will Need Child Support Beyond Age 18?

If you have reason to believe that your child will need child support beyond the age of eighteen, you need to be proactive.

If your child will turn eighteen and then graduate from high school and you already have a child support order in place, there may not be a need to take any further action. If you do not have a child support order in place, but you know you held your child back a year from kindergarten, and you know he will not graduate high school until he is closer to nineteen, you will need to have a child support obligation in place prior to your child turning eighteen and graduating. Starting early and planning ahead is best to prevent any argument that the time for child support has already passed. We try to plan for this in divorce and dissolution settlements and decrees, as well as child support orders as much as possible.

Likewise, if you have a child with a disability, you should plan ahead to ensure adequate support. Depending on your child’s needs, you may want to explore other options for providing for him or her after child support would otherwise terminate, such as establishing a STABLE account or a special needs trust.  It is important to get an extension of formal child support beyond age 18 well before the child’s 18th birthday. If child support terminates, it is impossible, or nearly so, to get it reinstated even if a child is disabled.

What if the Other Parent and I Cannot Agree on How Long Child Support Should Continue?

As noted above, a court will generally incorporate your agreement to extend child support beyond age 18 into your decree of divorce or dissolution, or child support order for never-married parents. However, if the other parent does not agree to such an extension, and your child is not disabled or still in high school, child support will terminate as of the child’s eighteenth birthday or the date when the child will graduate from high school (although you may need to notify the child support enforcement agency of the termination).

The reality for most young people is that they don’t go from being high school students one day to being fully self-supporting the next. Parents are usually offering some form of financial support, and may be footing the bill for college or other training. Some people are surprised to learn that financial help with college is not a required part of child support. Others have children who are so young at the time of the divorce or separation that college seems impossibly far away, and they don’t negotiate about college costs in their divorce settlement. By the time that day arrives (much more quickly than expected), it is far too late to get a court order requiring the other parent to chip in for those expenses.

The best course of action is to plan ahead. Work with experienced Ohio child support attorneys at Melissa Graham-Hurd & Associates to anticipate and plan for your child’s needs. Child support may not need to extend beyond your child’s eighteenth birthday, but you can put measures in place to help secure his or her future.

If you have questions about child support in Ohio, or what to do if you expect that your child will need support beyond the age of eighteen, we invite you to contact our law office. We will work with you to determine your child’s needs and advocate for them.

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