When do your obligations to your child end?

Getting custody of your children gives you a lot of rights, but it also gives you a number of obligations and legal duties. Common things you must do including giving children basic care, clothing, food and shelter. If you don't do this, you could run into legal trouble, such as being charged with neglect and seeing your custody rights rejected. As such, it's important to know how long these obligations last.

While the age does vary a bit from state to state, you generally have to provide for the child until he or she is 18. This holds true in Arizona. As long as the child does not ask to be removed from your care, you have to provide for him or her until the child is a legal adult.

At this point, your legal obligations come to an end in most cases. Of course, you can still help the child if you'd like, as many parents do. For example, many children live at home while attending college, even after the age of 18, because it helps to cut costs. However, you are not legally obligated to care for the child at all at this point, barring extenuating circumstances, and so you don't have to worry about legal ramifications if you don't provide free food, clothing and shelter.

When going through the divorce process, be sure you know the full scope of the legal order that is handed down. If you do win custody, it's fine to celebrate the victory, but don't get so wrapped up in emotion that you fail to look into all of the obligations you'll have going forward and what is required of you as a parent.

Source: FIndLaw, "How Long Do Parents' Legal Obligations to Their Children Continue?," accessed April 13, 2016

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