Child support-Until what age is one Halachically obligated to support his children?
A person is [Rabbinically] obligated to support his sons and daughters until the age of six years old. From age six and onwards, he is to support them in accordance to the institution of the Sages, until they become an adult [see Q&A for definition of adult]. This applies even if the father is not wealthy. [Until age six], this applies even if the child has money of his own, such as through inheritance [or a trust set up by others on his behalf]. However, from age six, the father does not need to support his child if he has his own money [that has been allocated to him through inheritance or a trust].
If the father refuses to pay: If the father refuses to support his children, [then if they are below age six, the Beis Din has authority to force him to pay, through seizing his assets and bank accounts. However, if the father refuses to support his children who are above age six,] the Beis Din cannot enforce him to do so, however they scream at him, and shame him, and implore him to pay. If he still refuses, they proclaim to the public that this individual is cruel, as he refuses to support his children, and he is worse than a non-Kosher bird which feeds its chicks. The above, however, only applies if the husband is not wealthy, if however, the husband is considered wealthy enough to support his children from his charity funds, then the Beis Din forces him to support them out of charity [through seizing his assets and money], until the child becomes an adult. [The above was true in previous times, however, in 1941, the chief Rabbanut of Eretz Yisrael instituted that its courts can legally enforce a father to pay child support until age 15, even if he is not wealthy, and so is done today amongst all Batei Dinim in Eretz Yisrael. Furthermore, each Beis Din has the discretion to enforce payments of child support until age 18, and at times even past age 18, in accordance to the case at hand. In the event of a divorce, it is common practice to include the amounts allocated for alimony and child support within the divorce agreement, and in such a case, the father must abide by whatever agreements were established there.]
A father is to support his children until they become an adult. Until age six, this is a complete monetary obligation which can be enforced by the Beis Din. From age six and onwards, this a Rabbinical institution which only applies if the child does not have money of his own, and in previous times could not be enforced by the Beis Din, unless the father was deemed wealthy. However, in today’s times, many Batei Dinim enforce the parent to support his children until age 15 or 18, and at times even later, in accordance to the needs of the child and the wealth of the father.
What is the definition of an “adult”? Until what age is a father to support his children in accordance to the institution of the Sages, and from Tzedaka?
Above we stated from the Shulchan Aruch that the Sages instituted that one support his child until he reaches adulthood, and if the father is wealthy, they can enforce payment until the child reaches adulthood. The question is raised regarding the age of adulthood applicable to this matter. Until what age is every father to support his child, due to the Rabbinical institution, and until what age can the Beis Din enforce a wealthy father to support his child? An adult is defined as the age that a child is able to enter the workforce and support himself. Accordingly, a father is Rabbinically required to support his child, and if he is wealthy, can be forced to do so, until the child reaches an age where he can support himself. All the above is regarding the obligation to support the child until he can make his own living, however, the Mitzvah of charity applies to the father throughout the life of the child, and hence if the father is wealthy and the child is unable to properly support himself even after reaching the above-mentioned age, then the father must give charity to help support his child, irrelevant of the child’s age.
In all countries, various laws exist regarding child support; such as 1) Upon whom does the responsibility fall? 2) Until what age of the child does it apply? 3) What amount must the parent provide? The law regarding these matters differ based on country, state, jurisdiction, and family court judge. The effect that state laws have on the Halachic ruling regarding these matters, requires further research. In Israel, the Chief Rabbinate maintains legislative autonomy regarding child support cases, and hence, there is no secular Israeli law that exists in contradiction to the Jewish law regarding this matter. Nonetheless, the secular Israeli courts [i.e. Beit Mishpat] also have the authority to hear child support cases, and to rule in accordance to their view, which does not follow Jewish law. Obviously, a Jew may only deal with these issues in a Beis Din, who follow Jewish law.
 Michaber E.H. 71:1
 Ramban Shemos 21:3; Avnei Miluim 71:3
 Michaber ibid; Ula in Kesubos 65b
 Michaber ibid; Takanas Usha in Kesubos 49b
The difference between the obligation of before and after age 6-Is this Rabbinical institution an individual obligation or is it an obligation of Tzedaka? The Rabbinical institution to support children above the age of six is unlike the obligation to support children below age of six, as below age six, the giving is an absolute obligation, similar to one’s obligation to pay for matters he has purchased. However, above age six, the matter is not a complete obligation, but a social responsibility of giving charity for the benefit of one’s children. Since the matter is defined as charity, therefore, one is unable to force a parent to support his child from after age six, unless he is deemed wealthy, on at least some level. [Implication of Shach Y.D. 251:5; Taz 249:1; Avnei Miluim 71:3; so rule: Rav Elyashiv; Rav Ovadia Yosef; Rav Mordechai Eliyahu; See Psak Din of Beit Din Rabbani Ariel, case number 466314-3] Some Dayanim however maintain that the payment after age six is a complete Rabbinical obligation, and is not the status of charity. [Rav Hertzog; Rav Uziel]
 Beis Shmuel 71:1
 Michaber ibid; Tur in name of Rosh and Maharam Merothenberg
 Beis Shmuel 71:2; Bach
Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that an ex-husband must support all the children that live in the home of his ex-wife, as part of his Kesuba obligations. [Igros Moshe E.H. 1:106 and Y.D. 1:143; based on Ran Kesubois 28b and Bach 71;] Accordingly, the obligation would apply even if the child has his own wealth. Practically, the Poskim negate this ruling. [Michaber 71:4 requires child support to be paid even if the child is born out of wedlock; Beis Shmuel 71:1 negates ruling of Ran ibid; Shevet Halevi 5:133 that the conclusion of the Igros Moshe ibid contradicts the Setimas Haposkim]
 Chelkas Mechokeik 71:1
 Michaber ibid; see Shach Y.D. 251:5
The reason: Although the Sages instituted that one is to support one’s children until they become an adult, this is not an absolute obligation but a mere Rabbinical moral practice of Tzedaka. [see Taz 249:1; Shevet Halevi 5:133; Poskim brought in previous footnotes]
Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that an ex-husband must support all the children that live in the home of his ex-wife, as part of his Kesuba obligations. [Igros Moshe E.H. 1:106 and Y.D. 1:143; based on Ran Kesubois 28b and Bach 71;] Accordingly, the Beis Din may force him to do so. Practically, the Poskim negate this ruling. [Michaber 71:4 requires child support to be paid even if the child is born out of wedlock; Beis Shmuel 71:1 negates ruling of Ran ibid; Shevet Halevi 5:133 that the conclusion of the Igros Moshe ibid contradicts the Setimas Haposkim]
 For the exact definition of wealthy, and if it follows the general definition of wealth regarding the laws of Tzedakak: See Nesivos Mishpat 25:5; Machaneh Efraim Tzedaka 1; Maharashdam Y.D. 166; Avnei Miluim 71:4
 See Yaskil Avdi E.H. 4:15; Hilchos Maaser Kesafim 11 footnote 371; Heard from Harav Yaakov Yosef za”l
 See ruling of the Moetzet Rabbanut Hareishit 21st of Sivan, 5741; 20th Marcheshvan 5746; 18th Kisleiv 5776 that they decided to raise the age of obligation from age 15 to age 18. However, this Takana did not spread amongst all areas, or amongst all Rabbanim. Rav Ovadia Yosef za”l opposed it, and hence practically, every Beis Din has jurisdiction to rule as they see fit. [Heard from Harav Yaakov Yosef zal] See next footnote however regarding a father who is wealthy
 As stated above, if the father is considered wealthy, and the child does not have money of his own [and cannot work, such as he is in the army, in college, etc] then we force the father to pay. [See Michaber Y.D. 251:4] The appointed Beis Din reviews this matter, and they decide whether the father is indeed deemed wealthy, and if the child is indeed deemed in need of support. They also decide the amount of monetary support to be given, and the amount that should be carried by the mother.
 See Psak Din of Beit Din Rabbani Ariel, case number 466314-3 for a lengthy discussion and ruling on this subject
 Derisha 71; Beis Shmuel 71:3; Maaseh Rokeiach on Rambam Ishus 12:14 “The age is not 13 years of age, but until they can support themselves”; Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:143; However, see Beis Shmuel ibid in name of Rabbeinu Yerucham who implies that the Rabbinical obligation is until adulthood [13 years of age] and past that age [until they can support themselves] it is merely an obligation of Tzedaka [and only applies if he is wealthy-see Nesivos Mishpat 25:5; However see Machaneh Efraim Tzedaka 1; Maharashdam Y.D. 166; Avnei Miluim 71:4; Beis Yaakov 71:1; Baal Haflah]. See Techumin 16 Mezonos Habanim; Psak Din of Beit Din Rabbani Ariel, case number 466314-3; See Hilchos Talmud Torah of Rav Ashkenazi p. 488 who states that older children is defined as above Bar and Bas Mitzvah, as the Sages obligated the father to support his children until that age.
 Michaber Y.D. 251:4; Derisha E.H. 71; Beis Shmuel 71:3; Rashba 3:292
 Many States in the USA require payment of child support until age 18. Others until age 19, and others until age 21; See here for a summary of law per state: http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/termination-of-child-support-age-of-majority.aspx
 Obviously, it is forbidden to go to a secular court to deal with these issues, and one must go to a Besi Din. However, the question is regarding whether the Beis Din should take into account the secular law in the administration of their Halachic verdict. Perhaps we Halachically require one to follow the law of the land regarding this matter, just as we rule regarding any monetary obligation that a person accepts upon himself, and by definition of living in a country with certain laws, he has accepted upon himself to abide by certain monetary obligations. This can be viewed similar to one’s obligation to pay taxes and the like. See Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:113; Vetzaruch Iyun.