I have recently fielded some questions regarding the termination of child support orders. Specifically, prospective clients have contacted me wondering why, after their child has turned 18, the support order wasn't automatically terminated. After all, once the child turns 18 and is no longer a minor, shouldn't the support obligation stop?
In Pennsylvania, the child support laws state that the obligor (paying parent) has a responsibility to provide support for the child until he or she turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. Therefore, although your child may have turned 18, if he or she is still in school, the obligor will owe support until the child graduates. However, the support collection system isn't perfect and sometimes extra payments will be collected even after the child has been emancipated. Therefore, an obligor should take care to file a petition to terminate the support order. If an obligor fails to do so, and the domestic relations section continues to collect support, it is nearly impossible to get the money back once it reaches the hands of the obligee without filing a separate lawsuit in small claims court.
In addition, there are limited circumstances where the support order can continue even after the date of emancipation. If you are the parent of a child who lives with you and is not capable of caring of himself or herself, you may be entitled to continuing support after the regular date of emancipation. In such a case, you would have to be able to prove to the court that the child is dependent on you. If the court determines that the child is incapable of self-reliance, support should be awarded in accordance with the guidelines.
Child support is a complex matter. Contact my Pittsburgh law firm, Gusty A.E. Sunseri & Associates, with your questions or concern regarding child support or related matter.