Can I still collect child support arrears after the child turns eighteen?

Once a child is considered a legal adult, the non-custodial parent is no longer required to pay child support payments. However, should there be back child support payments that remain unpaid, the custodial parent still generally has the right to collect on these back payments, even after the child has been emancipated.

The Rules for Back Child Support

It is important to note, first of all, that rules on child support vary greatly by state. For example, in some states, the child is considered an adult at age 18 while other states say 19 or 21; some say the child becomes an adult after finishing high school, regardless of age. It is the responsibility of the non-custodial parent to know the requirements of his state.

Regardless of state differences on the age of majority, once the child is officially considered an adult, the custodial parent will not be owed any new child support payments. However, any outstanding payments are still collectable provided the parent files a court order. While the debtor may not currently have the money for the payments, filing a court order means that any money earned in the future can still be collected and paid to the other parent for back child support.

Statute of Limitations for Back Child Support

Some states have a statute of limitations on how long after the child becomes an adult for a court order to still be enforced. As such, if a custodial parent hopes to collect back child support, she should not wait too long or the claim could be time-barred and no money can be collected.

Getting Help

Because the rules for collecting back child support after a child is an adult can vary by state, you should check with a lawyer in your area for more details. If you are eligible to collect back child support, your lawyer can also assist you in filing the proper legal documents and taking the steps necessary to get the money you are owed.