How long do you have to pay child support in Utah?

Child support is a payment made by a non-custodial parent to assist the custodial parent with the financial costs of raising a child. In Utah, child support typically continues until the child turns 18 years old or graduates high school, whichever occurs last. However, there are some exceptions where child support may be extended beyond this timeframe.

When does child support end in Utah?

In Utah, the basic duration of a child support order is until the child turns 18 years old or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. This is in accordance with Utah Code Section 78B-12-219, which states that except in certain circumstances, “a child support order shall terminate when the: (a) child becomes 18 years of age; or (b) child graduates from high school.”

So for example, if a child turns 18 in May but does not graduate high school until June, child support will continue through June. Or if a child graduates early at age 17, child support would end at graduation rather than age 18.

Exceptions where child support may extend beyond 18 in Utah

While 18 years old or high school graduation is the general rule, there are some exceptions where child support in Utah may continue beyond this timeframe, including:

  • The child has disabilities or impairments requiring ongoing support
  • The child is enlisted in the military
  • The child is still in high school when they turn 18
  • The parties agree to extend child support
  • Back child support is still owed

Child has disabilities or impairments

If a child has physical or mental disabilities or impairments that will prevent them from being self-supporting after turning 18, a Utah court may order that child support continues indefinitely. This requires filing a petition with the court before the child turns 18 explaining the need for continuing support. The court will evaluate factors like:

  • The child’s condition and ability to provide self-support
  • The child’s educational needs
  • The parents’ financial ability to contribute to ongoing support

If approved, ongoing child support may be ordered to provide financial assistance related to the child’s needs and disabilities.

Child enlists in the military

If a child enlists in the U.S. Armed Forces before graduating high school, Utah law allows for child support to continue until the child completes military service. This applies even if the child turns 18 during their military service.

Child still in high school at 18

If a child turns 18 but is still completing their final year of high school, child support will continue until graduation. This provision ensures the child has financial support to complete their education.

Parties agree to extend support

The parents can mutually agree to extend child support beyond when it would normally terminate. This agreement should be made through the court via a stipulation or modification order. Reasons parents may choose to extend support include college expenses or continued financial assistance for an 18-21 year old still transitioning to independence.

Back child support is owed

If back child support is owed at the time the child turns 18 or graduates, payments will continue until the arrears are paid off. Even if current support ends, the paying parent must continue making payments toward owed amounts.

How is the duration of child support determined?

When a child support order is established in Utah, it will define the duration that support should be paid. The court will follow the default guidelines of support continuing through age 18 or high school graduation. Any deviations from this duration, such as for a disabled child, must be specifically addressed in the support order.

Some factors that influence the duration include:

  • Child’s age and school status
  • Whether any disabilities or special needs exist
  • Parental agreement on extending support
  • Resources available to help child transition to independence

The goal is to provide financial stability until the child is legally considered an adult and reasonably able to be self-sufficient. The court will determine an appropriate term of support based on the child’s best interests and circumstances of the parents.

Can you extend child support beyond 18 in Utah?

Utah does allow for child support orders to be extended beyond 18 years old in certain situations, including:

  • The child has a mental or physical disability
  • The child continues secondary education
  • There is a prior agreement between the parents
  • The child faces extenuating circumstances delaying independence

To extend support, a petition must be filed before the existing order expires. The court will review factors such as the child’s needs and capabilities, objectives of the extension, parents’ financial resources, and the child’s educational status. If the extension serves the child’s best interests, the court has discretion to continue support.

Disabled child

If a child has a disability making them unable to be self-sufficient when they turn 18, ongoing support can provide vital financial assistance. This may include conditions like Down syndrome, autism, or physical disabilities requiring intensive care. Support can continue as long as necessary based on the child’s impairment and independence capabilities.

Continuing education

Child support may be extended to cover educational expenses if a child continues secondary education after turning 18. This includes programs like college, university, vocational school, or trade school. Support can continue through the completion of the child’s education to help cover tuition, books, housing, and reasonable living expenses.

Parental agreement

Parents can mutually consent to an extension of child support, such as to cover additional educational expenses or provide transitional assistance. This agreement should be formalized through the court system by filing a stipulation modifying the duration of support.

Other circumstances

In limited cases, support may be extended if a child faces challenges like severe economic hardship, being in foster care past 18, or inability to support themselves after turning 18. The court will decide if an extension is warranted based on the child’s specific situation and need.

How do you modify child support duration in Utah?

To modify the duration of an existing Utah child support order, you must file a petition with the court before the current end date. The petition should explain the reasons for seeking an extension and include supporting documentation such as medical records or college enrollment forms.

The court will review the petition and issue a decision on whether modifying the duration serves the child’s interests. If approved, a judge will issue an order defining the new termination date and support amounts owed. Both parents will receive a copy of the modified order.

Without filing for an extension proactively, child support will automatically end on the date stated in the original order. Some reasons parents commonly request extended support include college expenses, disabilities, or other factors delaying independence.

Can child support be extended without the paying parent’s consent?

Yes, child support can be extended without the paying parent agreeing to it. If the receiving parent files a petition demonstrating the child’s need and the paying parent objects, the court will make a determination based on the child’s best interests.

The court has authority to order support extensions without consent if circumstances like the following exist:

  • The child has disabilities requiring extra care and assistance
  • The child is finishing high school after turning 18
  • The child has educational expenses exceeding typical amounts
  • The child faces hardship or an inability to be self-sufficient at 18

The paying parent will have a chance to present objections and be heard at any hearings. But ultimately, if an extension is justified, the court can override a paying parent’s wishes and order continued support.

How does emancipation impact child support in Utah?

If a minor child is legally emancipated in Utah before turning 18, the emancipation terminates the parents’ obligation to pay child support. Emancipation means the child is declared an adult for most legal purposes, with rights and responsibilities of adulthood.

In Utah, minors may become emancipated by:

  • Getting married
  • Enlisting in the military
  • Receiving a court declaration of emancipation

Once emancipated, the child is deemed able to support themselves and no longer eligible for child support. Any existing child support orders will be terminated. However, back child support obligations still have to be fulfilled.


If a minor marries, they become emancipated automatically under Utah law. Any existing support will end since the spouse is expected to provide primary financial care. However, arrears cannot be retroactively modified and must still be paid.

Military service

Enlistment in the U.S. Armed Forces emancipates a minor in Utah. Child support will end once the child begins active duty. But again, any overdue support must still be paid.

Court declaration

A minor can petition the court to become legally emancipated. This fully confers adult status and rights. If approved, it terminates existing child support on the emancipation date. But past-due amounts remain collectible.

Does child support end if a child drops out of high school in Utah?

Simply dropping out of high school before graduating does not automatically terminate child support in Utah. The general rule is support continues to 18 or graduation, whichever occurs last. Dropping out makes the age 18 the default termination point.

However, if a child voluntarily drops out, the paying parent can petition the court to terminate current child support obligations. The court will consider factors like:

  • The child’s reasons for dropping out
  • Efforts to encourage the child to finish school
  • The child’s demonstrated maturity and self-sufficiency
  • The child’s educational and career plans going forward
  • Any adverse consequences of ending support

If satisfied that terminating support despite dropping out is in the child’s overall interests, the court can order support ended earlier than 18. But any overdue support still must be paid in full.

Can child support be reinstated after termination in Utah?

Yes, reinstating child support after termination is possible in Utah if certain conditions are met. Common reasons parents may seek to reinstate support include:

  • The child returns to high school after support ended
  • The adult child enrolls in college or trade school
  • The adult child develops a disability requiring financial assistance

To reinstate support, the receiving parent must file a petition and show a material change in circumstances necessitating extra financial help. If approved, support can resume at prior levels or be modified based on current factors.

What happens when a paying parent dies before child support ends?

If a paying parent dies before their child support obligation ends, the payments do not automatically continue from their estate. However, any overdue support they owed before dying still must be paid by their estate.

A Utah court may order these measures when a paying parent predeceases their support order:

  • Any arrears owed are paid from the deceased parent’s estate.
  • Life insurance or other provisions exist to continue support.
  • Survivor benefits like Social Security help replace support.
  • The surviving parent takes over full responsibility.

Absent such alternatives, ongoing child support generally ends upon the paying parent’s death. But past-due amounts still due are recoverable from their estate through a claim.

Can child support be terminated if the child refuses visitation in Utah?

Under Utah law, child support obligations cannot be ended solely because a child refuses visitation or contact with the paying parent. A child’s resistance to visitation does not relieve the paying parent’s duty to continue providing financial support.

Reasons a child may avoid visitation include:

  • Normal moodiness or schedules of older children
  • Strained relationship with paying parent
  • Influence or encouragement from other parent
  • Trauma or bad experiences during prior visits

If visitation problems exist, the parents should pursue counseling and court intervention to address the issues – not termination of vital financial support. Utah courts will not approve stopping child support payments due to non-compliance with a visitation order.

Can you go back to court to extend child support in Utah?

Yes, Utah allows courts to modify existing child support orders to extend the duration past when payments would normally end. Either parent can file a motion to request extending support if circumstances warrant continued assistance.

Reasons parents commonly go back to court to extend support include:

  • A child has special needs requiring extra care past 18.
  • A child pursues college or vocational education after turning 18.
  • The parents mutually agree to continue support temporarily.
  • A child faces hardship or inability to become independent at 18.

The court will assess factors like the child’s needs and abilities, objectives of extending support, and resources available to determine if an extension is justified. If so, the court can modify the order to prolong the duration of support as needed.

Can you negotiate out of court to extend child support in Utah?

Parents do have the option to negotiate an agreement to extend child support without going back through the court system in Utah. This negotiated agreement should still be formalized as a written stipulation.

Some key considerations for out-of-court agreements to extend support include:

  • Get any stipulation approved by a judge to be enforceable
  • Define new duration and amount obligations clearly
  • Consider tax implications
  • Allow for modification if circumstances change
  • Consult attorneys to understand rights and obligations

While out-of-court agreements are possible, it is usually best to have modifications addressing support duration formally approved through the courts. This provides legal protections for both parents going forward.


In Utah, child support typically extends through age 18 or high school graduation, whichever is later. But exceptions exist where support may continue past 18 if a child has disabilities, pursues college, faces hardship, or similar factors. Parents can negotiate extensions, but formal court approval ensures enforceability. With reasonable cause, child support durations can be modified to provide additional assistance serving the child’s needs and best interests.