What Happens to Child Custody Orders When Kids Turn 18?

It can feel like a child custody order will never end, but it happens faster than you’d expect. Most parents are stunned by how fast time flies and how quickly their kids grow up. Once your kid is a legal adult, they are no longer subject to child custody orders. 

However, a child’s emancipation date for custody isn’t always the day they turn 18. Here’s what you need to know about how custody and support orders end. 

Does Custody End When Kids Turn 18?

When does child custody end? Most people assume these orders automatically terminate on a minor’s 18th birthday. In most cases, that’s true, but not all. Sometimes, a minor as young as 14 can petition for emancipation. If that is granted, custody orders related to them no longer apply. The same is true if the minor joins the military or gets married (with the permission of their legal guardian). 

A related question is, “when does child support end?” That answer is more complicated. There are three potential dates upon which a support order could end in California:

  • The day the teen turns 18, if they have graduated high school or are no longer enrolled
  • The day the teen graduates high school, if they are still enrolled but over 18
  • The day the teen turns 19, if they are still enrolled in high school and have not yet graduated

In other words, support can last up to a year longer than custody orders in California. 

What Happens to Your Orders When Your Children Turn 18?

Your kid’s 18th birthday likely marks the day they officially become a legal adult, and their custody order no longer applies. Here’s what that means for you:

  • Your Kid Chooses Where They Live: Once the order is no longer in effect, it stops dictating where the child needs to live. They can keep following the custody order’s guidelines, but they can also choose to live full-time with either parent or move out entirely. 
  • Your Kid Can Refuse Visitation: Custody orders do not permit children to refuse to spend time with their parents during visitation. However, once they turn 18, they can choose whether they see either parent and opt not to attend visitation. 
  • Child Support May End: If a teen has stopped attending high school, the parent ordered to pay support will no longer owe additional monthly payments. Furthermore, if the teen chooses to stop spending time or living with the parent who receives support, the paying parent can petition to end the support order early. However, support will continue if the teen is still enrolled in high school and their living arrangements do not change. 

Get Help With the End of Child Custody Orders

The end of a custody or support order can be confusing. If you want to modify your order in response to your child’s 18th birthday, you should talk to the expert family law attorneys at the Viola Law Firm P.C. We can help you understand what will happen and petition for any modifications you need. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can help you.

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