When Does Child Support End in South Carolina

At what age does child support end in South Carolina?

Whether you are the parent receiving child support or the non-custodial parent paying it, you have a vested interest in knowing when child support payments end in South Carolina. Under state law, the parent ordered to pay child support must generally do so until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. Child support can continue until the 19th birthday if the child is still enrolled in high school. There are exceptions to this, however, and your situation may fall into one of the several exception categories:


South Carolina allows for the discontinuation of child support prior to a child’s 18th birthday or graduation from high school in the case of emancipation. This means the child has moved out of both parents’ homes and now financially supports himself or herself. Some examples of where legal emancipation can take place include enlisting in military service, working a full-time job, or getting married.

The court does not automatically discontinue child support enforcement when a child meets the legal definition of emancipation, however. The parent who pays child support must petition the court to provide an order for termination. This also applies when a child support order covers multiple children and only one has become emancipated.  The Cate Law Firm can advise you on the regulations for your county. You may also contact a local clerk for the South Carolina Family Court for additional instruction.

Child Support for College-Aged Students

Child support typically ends for a child when he or she turns 18 or graduates from high school. Parents may choose to come to their own agreement about helping their son or daughter with college expenses, but if they don’t, under certain circumstances either parent may petition the court for contribution to post-secondary educational expenses.

The factors the family court may consider in such a petition are whether 1) the characteristics of the child indicated he/she would benefit from college, 2) the child has demonstrated the ability to at least make satisfactory grades, 3) the child could not otherwise go to school, and 4) the other parent has the financial ability to help pay for such an education. In determining whether the child could otherwise go to school, the Court will look at the availability of grants and loans for the child, as well as the child’s ability to earn an income during the school year or on vacation.  These latter factors are necessary considerations given that the Court views the child as having a duty to help minimize his or her college expenses before seeking a parent’s financial assistance through court.  Hughes v. Hughes, 280 S.C. 388, 390-391 (Ct. App. 1984).

Child Support for Disabled Adult Children

Under S.C. Code Ann. §63-3-530(17), the court retains the discretion to continue child support past age 18 for those children with a significant physical or mental handicap. It can also order prolonged payment of child support in other exceptional circumstances. South Carolina differs from some states that place an age limit of 21 on child support payments for disabled young adults. South Carolina courts can order payment for as long as the physical disability, mental disability, or exceptional circumstance continues. This is particularly true if the State deems that it is in the best interest of the young adult to remain in his or her home environment.

 Work with an Experienced South Carolina Child Support Attorney

Ruth Cate, Rachel Brough, and Margaret Nowell have many years of experience assisting clients with child support issues in South Carolina. As outlined above, the discontinuation of child support isn’t always as simple as the child turning 18 or graduating from high school. Unfortunately, the parent receiving the child support and the parent paying it may not agree on what constitutes an exception to this rule. That’s why it’s so important to seek the counsel of an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate these issues as beneficially as possible.

Do You Need a South Carolina Family Law Attorney?

Whether you are facing a divorce, child support or custody dispute, or are faced with another difficult family law issue, The Cate Law Firm is here to help. Please contact our experienced and compassionate South Carolina family law attorneys at your convenience to request a confidential review of your case. We can be reached at (864) 585-4226 or by using our online contact form.


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