The child support payment process can be confusing. Here’s everything you need to know about how to get child support arrears dismissed in Pennsylvania.
The timeline of when mandatory child support arrears end depends on when the courts deem the child is mature enough to function without them. Although the court may reduce payments, the support does not likely end until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school.
Related: Pennsylvania Child Support Laws
When Does Child Support End?
Child support payments contribute to various expenses that fall on the parent with custody. These expenses can include medical fees, children’s school and activity expenses, and food and clothing necessities. These court-ordered payments commonly end when a child reaches the “age of maturity.” Many parents do not know the age of maturity in Pennsylvania, or if they are adequately preparing for the termination of the order.
When a family goes through a divorce, the court aims to keep the children’s best interests in mind, as do most family law attorneys. Legal orders protect children, and custody orders seek structure for children’s new living arrangements. Child support orders ensure the noncustodial parent contributes financially to sustain the children’s lifestyle as much as possible.
What Does “Age of Maturity” Mean?
State law dictates when support orders should end. The end of the child support order often catches parents by surprise, especially considering the order may have been in place for years. Still, in most states, including Pennsylvania, the order will end the child support order when the child reaches the “age of maturity,” when the child turns 18 or graduates high school – whichever comes later. In some states, the “age of maturity,” sometimes called the “age of majority,” is 21.
Is it Possible For Child Support to End Early or be Extended to be Longer?
The child support order length may change, but the order can terminate early if the child becomes emancipated. Through a court process, a child can emancipate because they can support themself, which can coincide with the child leaving home, joining the military, or getting married.
Alternatively, the order can extend past age 18 or 21 to provide child support in Pennsylvania while the child is in college or has special needs.
What Should Parents Do to Terminate Child Support?
Even though the child support order may include a termination date, it does not end automatically. You must take specific steps to terminate the agreement. In Pennsylvania, the noncustodial parent must submit a modification petition to stop payments. Until the order terminates, the noncustodial parent must continue payments.
To anticipate the termination, the parent making payments should file a modification petition a few months before the expected end date. In cases with multiple children, the parent must file individual petitions per child. In this case, consulting a child support lawyer may be helpful.
When the time comes to terminate a child support order, an overdue balance of payments may apply. Money a parent still owes is “arrears.” A parent owes arrears even after the court legally terminates the support order.
How Can Parents Get Child Support Arrears Reduced?
The best practice is to reduce the arrear balance before child support termination. The court will typically provide options such as making lump payments when possible or reducing the amount of each payment to prevent skipping.
Likewise, if a parent refuses to pay child support arrears, custodial parents may need a child support attorney’s help. Parents may land in a situation where they need legal assistance to collect the balance. A parent may have to file a separate civil action to recover the credit in these cases.