Though specifics vary from case to case, in Pennsylvania most child support court orders require payments until the child reaches 18 years of age – also known as the majority age. If all of the payments are made, the case is typically closed.
However, where there is back support owed, the custodial parent may be able to collect it even after the child turns 18.
In certain cases, child support may extend past the majority age, if the child has certain physical or emotional needs that require additional financial support, or if the child is still attending high school.
What happens to unpaid child support debt?
Unpaid child support debt does not simply vanish on the child’s 18th birthday. Rather, late payments are in arrears, and payments must continue until the balance has been paid in full.
Law enforcement agencies have tools at their disposal to collect past due child support against a parent. They may take action against an individual who owes child support by doing any of the following:
- Revoking or withholding passports and driver’s licenses from those who owe child support
- Garnishing wages
- Placing a lien on real or personal property
- Seizing tax refund checks
Additionally, delinquent parents may be sentenced to time in jail for not making support payments.
Some courts may make changes to a support order after the child turns 18 because the obligations of the custodial parent are theoretically lessened at that time. Support orders are also dismissed in some cases where the child is emancipated. The rulings in any particular case are dependent on its specific facts. The general rule, though, is that arrears must be paid before the support order is dismissed.
In a case where child support is owed and the child is over the age of 18, it is important to speak to an attorney to ensure rights are not lost due to time restrictions. With a statute of limitations in place, parents who are owed past-due child support may have a specified amount of time to enforce their rights.
An attorney with experience in family law may be able to help by bringing an action in court to collect the amounts that are in arrears. Don’t hesitate to contact our firm for questions you may have about past-due child support after 18.