What Happens to Custody When a Child Turns 18? Legal Changes and Custody Dynamics When a Child Reaches 18

Child custody is a legal term that describes the relationship between a parent and a child, such as the right to make decisions for the child and the duty to care for the child.Child custody issues often arise when parents separate or divorce, and the court has to decide how to allocate physical and legal custody of the child.

Child turns 18
What Happens to Custody When a Child Turns 18? | FAMILY LAW

But what happens to custody when a child turns 18, the legal age of adulthood in most states?

In this article, we will explain how custody arrangements change or end when a child reaches the age of majority.

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How Does Child Custody Work?

Child custody can be divided into two types: physical custody and legal custody.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives and who provides daily care for the child.

Child custody
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Legal custody refers to who has the authority to make major decisions for the child, such as education, health care, religion, etc.

Both types of custody can be shared or exclusive, depending on the agreement or order of the court.

When parents separate or divorce, they can either agree on a parenting plan that outlines how they will share physical and legal custody of their child, or they can let the court decide for them based on the best interests of the child.

The court will consider various factors, such as the wishes of the parents and the child, the relationship between the child and each parent, the stability and safety of each home, the child’s needs and preferences, etc.

The court will also determine how much time each parent will spend with the child, and how they will communicate and cooperate with each other.

This is called visitation or parenting time.

The parent who has less physical custody of the child usually has visitation rights, unless there are reasons to restrict or supervise them, such as abuse, neglect, or violence.

The court can modify or change the custody arrangement if there is a significant change in circumstances that affects the best interests of the child, such as relocation, remarriage, illness, etc.

The parent who wants to modify the custody order must file a motion with the court and show why the change is necessary and beneficial for the child.

How Does Child Custody End?

Child custody does not last forever.

It usually ends when one of these events occurs:

1.The child turns 18 (or 19 or 21 in some states)
2.The child graduates from high school (or college in some states)
3.The child gets married
4.The child joins the military
5.The child becomes emancipated
6.The child dies

The most common event that ends child custody is when the child turns 18, which is the legal age of adulthood in most states.

This means that the child can make their own decisions and is no longer under the control or supervision of their parents.

The parents no longer have any rights or obligations regarding their child’s physical or legal custody.

However, there are some exceptions and variations depending on the state laws and the specific circumstances of each case. For example:

Some states extend child custody until the child graduates from high school or reaches a certain age (usually 19 or 21), whichever comes first.

This is to ensure that the child completes their education and receives financial support from their parents.

Some states allow parents to agree on extending child custody beyond the age of majority for various reasons, such as disability, special needs, college education, etc.

This agreement must be voluntary and in writing, and approved by the court.

Some states terminate child custody automatically when the child turns 18, unless there is a court order or agreement that specifies otherwise.

Some states require parents to file a motion with the court to terminate child custody when their child turns 18.

This is to notify the court that their parental rights and responsibilities have ended.

What Happens After Child Custody Ends?

When child custody ends, it does not mean that the relationship between the parent and the child also ends. It just means that it changes from a legal one to a personal one.

Parents can still maintain contact and communication with their adult children, as long as they respect their wishes and boundaries.

Parents can also continue to provide financial support for their adult children if they choose to do so or if they are required by law. For example:

Some states require parents to pay for their children’s college education or health insurance until a certain age (usually 21 or 23), regardless of whether they have custody or not.

Some states allow adult children to sue their parents for support if they are unable to support themselves due to disability, illness, or other reasons.

Some states allow courts to order parents to pay for their children’s medical expenses or other extraordinary expenses, even after they turn 18.

Parents should consult with a family law attorney to understand their rights and obligations regarding child support after child custody ends.

Conclusion

Child custody is a legal term that describes the relationship between a parent and a child.

It usually ends when the child turns 18, the legal age of adulthood in most states.

However, there are some exceptions and variations depending on the state laws and the specific circumstances of each case.

Parents should consult with a family law attorney to understand how custody arrangements change or end when their child reaches the age of majority.

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