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What Are Paying Child Support Emancipation Rules After 18 In Washington State Regarding High School Graduation.

Updated on March 24, 2014

Child support is a financial obligation which is paid by the non-custodial parent (parent not living with the child) to the custodial parent (parent whom the child resides with). This obligation is set in Superior Court or in some cases by the Washington State Child Support Division.

Child Support is designed to assist the custodial parent in caring for the child in his or her care. It is intended to help pay for housing, food, clothing and other expenses related to caring for one's child.

Child support is to be paid until the child is considered emancipated (considered an adult). When this occurs can vary greatly from State to State.

In the State of Washington the default emancipation rule is typically 18 or graduates from high school whichever occurs last. Meaning if your child turns 18 in January but is a senior in high school and will not graduate until the following June the non-custodial parent will pay child support through the month of June when high school graduation occurs. The reasoning being that the custodial parent is still supporting the child even though they are 18 they are a full time high school student living at home.

There are some exceptions to this rule, such as if the child is special needs support can go on indefinitely or if its stipulated in the order support may continue if the child enters college after high school.

There are times when it can be difficult to determine when the child should be considered emancipated such as when a child is behind in school credits. For example a 17 year old child may only have enough credits to be considered a sophomore. In these kind of situations the non-custodial parent may return to court to have the child support terminated earlier than high school graduation. The court may grant this if the child is not meeting standard time frames for graduating such as not attending school or failing the majority of their classes.

The rule is designed to meet the majority of cases when a child is 18 and reasonably expected to graduate on time before they reach the age of 19. There are exceptions where this can be hard to determine though, such as when the child is home schooled, attends a school where they can progress at their own pace or are severely behind where they should be given their age. In any of the cases where there is an exception to the rule the non-custodial parent can get the order clarified in court.

To surmise, in Washington State, if the child is on track to graduate around their 18th birthday then child support should be paid up to the month they graduate. Also it should not be prorated. If, for instance, the child graduates on June 2nd then the full month of support should be paid for the month of June. Child Support would officially end in this example effective the month of July.

If the child graduates from high school early, say when they are still 17 then child support should be paid until the month they turn 18.


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    • shuck72 profile image

      shuck72 4 years ago from Seattle

      the otherclark, thanks for the question. I don't know of a specific precedent, I believe its looked at on a case by case basis. If your child is not attending school on a regular basis and is over 18 your recourse would be to have the child support order terminated. You would have this done by an attorney or contact the court's facilitator for assistance to do it yourself without an attorney. This is all assuming the custodial parent or division of child support are in disagreement with your stance that it should end. If you have a child support case, the first step would be to raise the issue with them, they provide informal hearings which may be able to resolve it quickly and at no cost. Mediation may be another low cost option for you to pursue.

    • profile image

      theotherclark 4 years ago

      In your paragraph about the school credits, you mention that if the child is not attending school regularly, that it may be cause for the child support to be terminated. Is there a precedent on this? Where can I find more information?

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 6 years ago from Aurora

      You may want to ask this on eHow, whose questions are often state specific.

      Sadly, divorce laws vary so much between the states, that usually a lawyer is required. Then lawyers try to create unfriendliness to extend their outrageous pay.

    • shuck72 profile image

      shuck72 6 years ago from Seattle

      I had heard it was 21 in New York. That would only make sense if the child in question was going to college but as I understand it that doesn't matter in NY. If they're 21 and still live at home child support continues.

    • Moderndayslave profile image

      Moderndayslave 6 years ago

      Very nice, you're lucky to live in Seattle because in NY it's 21.