In Alabama, a parent generally has the duty to support his child until the child is considered an adult. However, this support may continue after this point with an agreement of the parties or under special circumstances.
Age of Majority
Alabama's law considers a person to have "reached the age of majority" at 19, instead of 18. This means that in most cases, the obligation to pay child support ends on the child's 19th birthday when he is considered an adult by the state. Technically, the child support obligation does not end until the judge orders it to stop, wrote Alabama family law lawyer Jim Jeffries. A parent may petition to emancipate his child before the age of 19 in extraordinary circumstances, such as when the child is serving in the military or is otherwise fully operating as an adult.
Child Support Order
While 19 is the default age, the child support order is the document that specifically deals with the particular parents and child. As Jeffries explains, the judge must stop the order unless the divorce decree or a subsequent order specifies an exact date on which the support must end. A court order may state that the child support should continue after the child's 19th birthday. However, to extend the support past the age of majority, the parent must file an action before the child's 19th birthday or the family court will lose jurisdiction over the case.
A child support order requiring payment after the child reaches the age of majority may also be made if the child is disabled. The reasoning behind this rule is that an adult can be assumed to provide for himself. However, a person with a physical or mental disability continues this disability into adulthood. Instead, the support can be ordered until the need for it no longer exists.
Parents may agree to include college expenses such as tuition, fees and books in a child support order. However, an Alabama Supreme Court case in 2013 held that a parent does not have the duty to pay for college. This decision overruled previous precedent that allowed for court orders that required parents pay for college expenses. Therefore, a court cannot order a parent to pay for college expenses absent such an agreement.