When Does Child Support End?

By Bob Matteucci

Nobody can agree on exactly when a parent becomes a parent. But there is a universal understanding that once you step into that role, it lasts a lifetime. 

No matter how old they get, you never stop loving, worrying about, and wanting to care for your children. You may, however, be looking forward to the day they can financially support themselves! 

Attorney Bob Matteucci gets a lot of questions from parents in the Albuquerque area about how long child support obligations last. The answer is every lawyer’s favorite answer: it depends. So below is an overview of some of the factors it can depend on. 

When Your Child Turns Eighteen or Nineteen Years Old

Under New Mexico state law, child support must be paid until your child turns 18 years old AND is no longer in high school. If your child is still attending high school, child support can last until he or she turns 19 years old.

This is a very clear rule… which is why there are some exceptions to it! 

The High Cost of Higher Education

Young people today are more likely to pursue some sort of post-high school education than any previous generation. And more likely to need help paying for such education as the cost of college continues to rise. 

In response, many New Mexico parents are choosing to incorporate some provisions outlining how the family plans to support their child’s educational goals — no matter how old their child is at the time of divorce. Incorporating this information into the parenting plan may seem a bit premature if your child is still in elementary school, but thinking ahead gives you time to plan ahead so you are ready to write that tuition check, co-sign loans, or give your kid the information they need to fill out the FAFSA. 

Physical or Mental Disability

If your child has a physical or mental disability that will prevent them from becoming self-supporting, your obligation to support them may continue indefinitely. This is also something that should be addressed in your parenting plan at the time of divorce, with the caveat that your child’s needs will likely change as they get older. 


Under New Mexico state law, a person between the ages of sixteen and eighteen can be legally emancipated from their parents if he or she:

  • has entered into a valid marriage
  • is on active duty with any of the armed forces of the United States of America; or
  • has received a declaration of emancipation pursuant to the Emancipation of Minors Act.

But contrary to popular belief, a child’s emancipation does not always end the obligation of support. In the case Diamond v. Diamond, the New Mexico Supreme Court held that an emancipated minor can seek child support payments until he or she turns 18. 

Serving Families with Dignity & Compassion 

New Mexico’s adoption of clear child support guidelines and bright line rules about when child support obligations end mean it is easy to calculate exactly what date you are no longer legally obligated to financially provide for your children. 

However, a lot of families in the Albuquerque area are choosing to extend parental support obligations based on their child’s educational goals or medical needs. 

If you have questions about your existing child support payments, or want to ensure your child’s financial needs are being met, Attorney Bob Matteuci is here to help. Please contact him today to schedule an initial consultation.

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.