Child Support After 18 — Is It Owed Or Not?

Termination of child support after age 18 can be a nebulous affair in Washington State.

Typically, 18 years is a milestone signifying the end of childhood. With adulthood come responsibilities including, one presumes, providing financially for oneself. For that reason, Termination of Support orders filed with a couple’s divorce decree usually set the child’s 18th birthday as the date support payments will end.

There are, however, exceptions. The laws stipulating the conditions under which child support in Washington may be modified state that support may be extended after age 18 if the child is still in high school, and needs the support to help finish.

This situation may occur if the child turns 18 before the end of his or her senior year. But what if this happens because the child was retained at the elementary level or fails to graduate on time due to delinquency? Having to continue supporting the child might seem unfair.

But if illness or some other medical condition caused the graduation’s delay, or some other reason out of anyone’s control, the courts are probably going to extend support until the child finishes school.

Child Support After 18 | Is the “child” a dependent?

Case law, too, provides for extended support in certain circumstances, giving the courts the power to declare a child to be still a “dependent” at 18 and therefore entitled to support. Since the courts define “dependent” as someone who looks to another person for primary support, most 18-year-olds probably would qualify.

But how long is long enough? Some people depend on their parents for support long past the age of adulthood, even those who graduate from high school. The courts have the discretion to extend support a full year, but won’t usually order support after the “child” reaches 19.

If the child is in college, child support after 18 may be awarded under Washington law, but on a voluntary rather than mandatory basis. The court may order parents to help pay for the costs of post-secondary education, however.

On the other hand, child support may end before the dependent turns 18. If the child emancipates himself from the parent providing the support, the parent’s payments for that child will end. The same applies if the child marries, or goes to work full-time and supports herself with the income.

If you have questions about child support, either as someone paying it or as the parent receiving it, Quiroga Law Office has the research and experience you need to get the best outcome for you and your child. Why not contact us today at 509-827-3840 with your questions and concerns?

Child Support After 18 — Is It Owed Or Not? | Copyrighted Material of the Quiroga Law Office, PLLC