When Does My North Carolina Child Support Obligation End?

Each parent has a duty to support their minor children. As most of us know, when the parents no longer live together the parent that has the child most of the time has the right to request child support from the other parent. An Order for child support is often entered by the Court requiring that one parent pay the other parent a monthly amount for support of the child or children. So, the question is then raised: When does my obligation to pay child support in North Carolina end?

North Carolina General Statute Section 50-13.4 states that the Order terminates automatically when a child reaches the age of 18 except:

  1. If the child is otherwise emancipated, payments shall terminate at that time;
  2. If the child is still in primary or secondary school when the child reaches age 18, support payments shall continue until the child graduates, otherwise ceases to attend school on a regular basis, fails to make satisfactory academic progress towards graduation, or reaches age 20, whichever comes first, unless the court in its discretion orders that payments cease at age 18 or prior to high school graduation.

It is also the general rule that child support is vested at the time it is due pursuant to a court order. An important exception to that general rule is found in NCGS Section 50-13.10(d) (3) which states that a child support payment or the relevant portion thereof, is not past due, and no arrearage accrues:

During any period when the child is living with the supporting party pursuant to a valid court order or to an express or implied written or oral agreement transferring primary custody to the supporting party.

So, if the child or children move from the parent receiving child support to the parent paying child support, the child support obligation ends. However, unlike when a child ages out, the Order remains and another Order must be entered to address the new living arrangements.


Attorney Keith Black is North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Family Law.

Family Law