THE AGE AT WHICH CHILD SUPPORT CEASES
We are often asked how long one has to pay child support. In Alabama, the age of majority is nineteen years old. A “child” becomes an “adult” when he or she turns nineteen. Child support ceases at that time, with one exception. According to Ex parte Brewington, a case handled by our firm, a circuit court has the authority to order child support beyond the age of majority for a mentally or physically handicapped child. Ex parte Brewington, 445 So.2d 294, 296 (Ala. 1983). “To award [Brewington] support, the trial court must (1) determine that the adult child is not capable of earning an income sufficient to provide for his or her reasonable living expenses and (2) that the adult child’s mental or physical disability is the cause of his or her inability to earn that income.” Ex parte Cohen, 763 So.2d 253, 256 (Ala. 1999). The disability must have existed before the child became an adult, although the petition for such support does not have to be filed before the child reaches the age of majority.
“Using as a springboard the substitution of ” dependents” for ” children” in Brewington, the Court in Ex parte Bayliss , 550 So.2d 986 (Ala. 1989), ‘expanded’ the Brewington exception to require a noncustodial parent to pay college expenses for children who had passed the age of majority.” Ex parte Christopher, 145 So.3d 60, 66 (Ala. 2013). This exception remained in effect until the court overruled Bayliss in the Christopher case. The Christopher court, however, did not overrule Brewington, because that question was not before it. Thus, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals concluded in Knepton v. Knepton, that the Brewington case was still good law. Knepton v. Knepton, 199 So.3d 44 (Ala.Civ. 2015).
Hence, the rule appears to be that child support ceases in Alabama when a child reaches the age of majority, unless that child is mentally or physically disabled while still a minor. Thus, Alabama parents will not be required by a court to pay college expenses of a child beyond the age of majority.