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Bay Area Family Attorneys > Blog > Child Custody Visitation > What Happens to Child Custody Orders When Kids Turn 18?

What Happens to Child Custody Orders When Kids Turn 18?


The date that children will no longer be beholden to follow the terms of a custody order is not ALWAYS simply the date that the child turns eighteen and gains the legal protections of their adult status. This article highlights some key things for parents to remember about when and how custody orders might come to an end.

Custody Orders and Age 18

Parents who assume that custody orders automatically end when a minor turns 18 may be in for a surprise. While this is true in many cases, it is not always the case. For example, a minor child can petition for emancipation as young as age 14. If granted emancipation, the custody order will come to an end. Custody orders will similarly cease to apply to a minor if they join the military, or if they obtain their legal guardian’s consent and choose to marry.

The End of Child Support

There is even less of a hard-and-fast answer to the question of when the obligation to pay child support ends.

Generally speaking, there are three potential dates in which most support ends end:

  • The day the minor turns 18, if they have already graduated high school or are no longer attending high school
  • The day that the “child” in question graduates high school, if they are still enrolled in high school but over the age of eighteen
  • The day the “child” turns nineteen, if they are still enrolled in high school, have not yet graduated, and cannot support themselves

Of course, every divorce and custody case is different. It is important to review and understand the terms laid out in your own individual court case. Your custody and support orders might have unique terms, contacting an experienced family law attorney is always a good way to ensure you fully understand your obligations.

What Happens After the Orders Cease?

Your relationship with your child does not stop simply because the custody order is no longer in effect. All this means is that your child has likely become the person in the driver’s seat when it comes to making decisions about how and where they spend their time.

Your child can choose where they live: custody orders will no longer dictate how much time the child will spend in any certain home. The child can keep following the court-ordered guidelines that were present in the custody order, or they could choose to make their own schedule, or move out on their own entirely.

Something that goes hand in hand with the above – once the custody order is no longer in effect your child can refuse visitation. Your child can now choose how much time they want to spend with either parent – or if they spend any time with them at all.

Cardwell, Steigerwald & Young Can Help

Coming to the end of a custody order period can be just as confusing as when the orders were put into place to begin with. If you want your orders modified or need help in this next phase, contact the child c San Francisco custody and visitation lawyers at Cardwell, Steigerwald Young.




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