For parents, going through the divorce process can make an already difficult situation even more challenging. Outside of determining a custody arrangement that best suits the family’s needs, coming to an agreement on child support can be one of the most difficult tasks parents have to do.
While the state of Washington does have some support guidelines to ensure a child’s most fundamental needs are provided for, a parent’s financial obligation to his or her child can extend well beyond the basics. An order of support can include numerous extras, even going as far as covering a child’s higher education.
When does child support end?
Typically, an order of financial support ends when a child turns 18 and has graduated from high school. However, Washington allows these orders to remain in effect until the child has obtained a college degree, becomes emancipated or becomes financially independent. Paying for a child’s higher education is not required by the state, but courts are more willing to include it as part of a support order if:
- Both parents’ financial resources allow for the expense
- It will help maintain the child’s standard of living
- If the child has plans to attend college and obtains the grades to do so
- The child lacks his or her own money
How much a parent will have to pay in child support to cover college expenses will depend on a number of factors. Even when parents think they have it figured out, the overall amount they might have to pay may be different than expected. Their child may qualify for financial aid, receive a scholarship, go to school out of state or end up at a university with higher than average tuition rates.
Even though the family dynamic changes with divorce, it does not mean that hopes and plans for a child’s future have to be abandoned. Parents can take steps to ensure their children are provided for through college. An experienced family law attorney can help parents negotiate or litigate child support terms that include various extras, including money for higher education.