Typically, Washington State child support lasts until the child turns 18 years old, or until the child graduates from high school. The child, however, should have graduated before s/he reaches the age of 19 years.

However, in rare and exceptional circumstances, the court may order that child support payments continue even beyond high school. If you believe that your child will continue to require maintenance expenses even beyond high school, such as for college, you can petition the court. This kind of extended support is called post-secondary support. The court may order that the noncustodial parent support the child for further education like college or vocational classes.

Learn More About Ending Child Support Payments in Washington +

Proving a Child Needs Post-Secondary Support

The majority of these cases deal with special needs children who learn at a slower pace than their peers, or who have physical disabilities that make finishing school on time difficult. If the parent wants the child to enroll in a special education program, then the parents must provide documentation in the form of school records that describe the education program and its benefits to the child. 

Parents can also provide the following to prove the extent of the child’s injuries.

• Medical records
• Psychiatrist’s opinions
• Functional behavior and speech evaluations
• Physical evaluation reports

The parent requesting extended child support payments must provide this documentation in a petition that asks the court to deviate from the established guidelines.

How Long Will I Pay Child Support if the Court Rules Post-secondary Support is Needed?

Extended child support duration is decided on a case-by-case basis. It could be as little as one year or as long as five. When a court decides to order post-secondary support, it will make this decision based on the level of dependency of the child on the parents.

In order to determine that a child is dependent on the support, the court will consider a number of factors.

• Child’s age
• Child’s daily needs
• Child’s desires for his/her future
• The kind of education needed to realize that future

The court will also consider the type of support that the child would have enjoyed if the parents had remained married to one other. To learn about post-secondary support, speak to a family lawyer. File the petition for post-secondary support before the support payments under the current order are scheduled to end.

To be clear, our firm understands that all parties want what is best for the children. Call 425-460-0550 to speak with attorney Molly B. Kenny about length of child support payments. You can also schedule an appointment by filling out the online contact form.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington
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