Child support is a normal part of a family law matter such as a divorce or paternity case. However, many folks who pay child support and who may not have good relationships with their co-parent frequently look forward to the day when child support is no longer required. Several years ago, the emancipation age for weekly child support was changed by the Indiana legislature from 21 years old to 19 years old. That meant that the parent paying child support could ask the court to order that weekly child support payments stop as of the child’s 19th birthday. Recently that law changed a bit. The age of emancipation when weekly child support can stop remains 19, but a new exception has been added to the law which may result in weekly child support continuing past the age of 19.
The new change is related to what many people believed to be a gap in the law – a 19-year-old child who is still living at home and attending high school. The concept of emancipation is based on the idea that when a child reaches a certain age, that child is likely no longer under the care and control of a parent. In the case of a 19-year-old in high school, that is not the case. Under the new amendment to the law, if child turns 19 years of age and is still attending high school on a full-time basis, he or she would not be emancipated, and as such, weekly child support payments would continue. The support would continue to be paid until and terminate only when the child graduates from high school (or there is another reason to emancipate the child such as marriage or joining the military).
However, to ensure that the child support continues until the child graduates, the parent receiving child support must file a notice with the court before the child reaches the age of 19 (but not earlier than when the child turns 17 years of age) which provides proof of the child’s enrollment in high school and the child’s expected graduation date. If a parent files this notice with the court, the other parent may object and/or request a hearing but must do so within 30 days of the notice. If there is no objection or hearing request made in that timeframe, the court is not required to hold a hearing, but can simply issue an order that would continue child support through the child’s graduation date.
As parents are starting their children in school later for a variety of reasons, also known as “redshirting,” more and more children are reaching the age of 19 while still enrolled in high school. Emancipating these children may make sense as they are no longer minors; however, they do not possess the basic requirement to obtain most types of employment or attend college or trade school, such as a high school diploma or a G.E.D. Stretching child support to high school graduation will allow all children to be supported until they reach this important milestone.
If you have any questions as to how this change may affect your child support, make an appointment with your attorney to discuss your child support order when your child turns 18.