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When Can Child Support Go Past 18?

Goldberg Jones Child Support, Featured Posts 4 Comments

This post has been updated.

In most cases in Washington, child support comes to an end when the children in question turn 18-years-old or graduate from high school, whichever comes later. Circumstances do exist, however, where payments may continue much longer.

When it comes to the Evergreen State, the age of majority is 18. This generally means that when your kids hit this milestone, they legally become adults and the government no longer considers them dependents. They can vote, join the military, and all indulge in most the things that, legally speaking, make them adults. In specific situations, however, they retain their dependent status. The most common of these instances involve education or some kind of special needs.

Related Reading: Does Losing a Job Change Child Support?

Child Support And High School

Like we said, in Washington child support ends when the child turns 18-years-old. Generally, that is. If they’re already that old when you divorce, your decree probably won’t include an obligation for that child. Even if you do pay for younger siblings.

One situation where this isn’t the case is when the child is still in high school. For example, if your son turns 18 in early February, he may not graduate until the middle of June. In this case, your child support order may specify that your obligation continues until that time.

If your divorce decree doesn’t specify a cut-off date, child support ends on the child’s 18th birthday. However, if they are still in school and rely on parental support, your ex can file a motion requesting court-ordered payments until graduation.

Related Reading: Child Support Modification: How to Change a Support Order

Child Support And Postsecondary Education

Another situation where Washington may order child support to continue is in the case of postsecondary education. Much of this depends on how old children are at the time of divorce. However, the courts can extend your obligation to include provisions for additional schooling.

This covers an array of educational options, including community college and four-year universities. Professional training, technical instruction, and vocational training designed to increase future employment prospects also fall into this category.

While a  child support order can account for postsecondary education, it’s not automatic or mandatory. If included in the original order, the document will outline the obligations of each parent. If not, either parent can file for postsecondary support before the child’s 18th birthday. The student, however, must meet certain requirements.

When it comes to postsecondary  child support in Washington, the court considers numerous factors. RCW 26.19.090 lays out these guidelines in detail.

The court must determine that the child indeed still relies on the parents for “the reasonable necessities of life.” They also consider the child’s age, aptitude, and ultimate educational goals. For instance, if they intended to go to college while you were still married, that influences the decision.

Even the parents factor into the equation. The court looks at their educational level, standard of living, and present and future resources. The child must enroll in an accredited institution, pursue a course of study in line with their aims, and maintain good academic standing. If not, support the court can revoke support.

Except for specific circumstances, the court won’t order postsecondary educational support past the age of 23. And if the child is 18, payments ideally go to him or her, or directly to the institution itself.

Related Reading: Who Pays for College? An In-Depth Look at Postsecondary Support

Special Needs And Continuing Child Support

A third instance, where support may continue beyond a child’s 18th birthday is if they have special needs that necessitate lasting parental care. Much like postsecondary education, in cases of a known disability, a  child support order will likely address this ahead of time.

The court accounts for children mentally or physically incapable of supporting themselves when awarding child support, which can extend beyond 18. This varies from case to case, but the court may order support to continue indefinitely, or until they no longer consider the child disabled.

Related Reading: What is In A Parenting Plan?

Ending Support Before 18

While child support in Washington usually ends at 18, in certain circumstances, it may terminate before that. These generally include instances where a child becomes self-sufficient and no longer needs parental assistance.

A number of situations exist where this may happen. You’re no longer obligated to provide monetary support if your son gets married. The same goes for if your daughter joins the military before reaching the age of majority. Ditto for situations where a child leaves home or becomes financially independent. In such cases, they cease to be dependents.

Washington child support orders, as well as those in most other states, are layered and complicated. Support obligations depend on a great many factors. Though they usually end when a child turns 18, that’s not always the case.

Related Reading: How Is Child Support Calculated In Washington?

Comments 4

  1. Do you have to be a full time high school student to continue child support passed 18 in state of Washington when he was do to graduate this this year but won’t because he’s only going part time and mom signed him out at beginning of year…..?

    1. Post
      Author

      That’s a good question, Caryn. Thanks for reaching out. I passed your contact information along to Ken Alan, our managing attorney. He will be in contact soon with a more in-depth answer than we can get into here.

  2. If a child does not graduate from high school because of lack of credits but will be turning 18 In July. Does child support still continue or does it stop wants the child turns 18? The divorce creed states child support ends wants the child either turns 18 yrs old or graduates which ever comes last.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Lisa! Thanks for the question. This can vary some from one case to the next. I passed your contact information along to our managing attorney, Ken Alan. He will be in touch soon, and when he hears some of the specifics, he’ll hopefully be able to offer more insight than we can get into here. Best!

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