Under Georgia law, child support terminates under the following circumstances:
- Once the child reaches the age of majority (currently age 18), unless the provision provides for child support to continue as long as the child is enrolled in secondary school up to age 20;
- Upon the death of the child;
- Upon the marriage of the child;
- Upon the emancipation of the child;
- Upon the death of the parent obligated to pay child support, unless otherwise stated in the decree of divorce;
- Upon the death of the parent who is the legal custodian of the minor child;
- If the parent obligated to pay child support obtains legal custody of the minor child; or
- Unless otherwise stated in the divorce decree.
Regarding (1) above, many potential clients misinterpret the term “secondary school” to mean college or other post-high school education. However, “secondary school” refers to high school education. Therefore, when parents see the following standard child support provision below:
“The child support shall continue monthly thereafter until the child reaches the age of
eighteen, dies, marries, or otherwise becomes emancipated; provided that if the child
becomes eighteen years old while enrolled in and attending secondary school on a
full-time basis, then the child support shall continue for the child through the month
when the child has graduated from secondary school or through the month when
the child reaches twenty years of age, whichever occurs first”
it means that child support terminates once the child turns 18, but it will continue as long as the child is enrolled in high school up to age 20, provided the child has not married or otherwise become emancipated. Neither a court or jury can require a parent to continue child support beyond age 18, with the exception of requiring support to continue until the child either graduates high school or turns 20, whichever occurs first. Therefore, neither a court or jury can require a parent to pay for college expenses and/or post-secondary education. However, as noted in (8) above, the parties can agree that child support will continue after high school graduation as long as the provision to that effect is clear and unambiguous.
Regarding (4) above, “emancipated” is defined as the relinquishment by a parent of the control and authority over a child, conferring on him/her the right to his/her earnings and terminating the parent’s legal duty to support the child. Emancipation can occur through either the acts of the parent or the child. For example, a child’s marriage emancipates the child. As a final note, parents who are obligated to pay child support should not assume that their child support obligation automatically terminates once their child becomes self-supporting or enters the military, unless specifically provided for in the decree.
Because child support provisions can be difficult to understand and parents often don’t have a full understanding of their obligations and/or rights regarding child support, it is imperative that parents consult with an experienced family law/divorce attorney regarding this most important issue—the financial support of one’s child. Contact the experienced Douglasville Family and Divorce attorneys today at (770) 485-6620.