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How does Washington law address the issue of child support for a child over 18?

Understanding Child Support Laws for Adult Children in Washington State

In the state of Washington, child support laws are designed to ensure that both parents contribute to the financial needs of their children. While child support is typically associated with minor children, there are circumstances under which support may extend beyond the age of 18. This article delves into the nuances of Washington law regarding child support for adult children.

Extended Child Support for Adult Children

According to Washington law, there are specific conditions under which child support may continue after a child reaches 18 years old. The primary scenario in which this occurs is when the child is still attending high school. In such cases, support may continue until the child graduates or turns 19 years old, whichever comes first.

Another instance where support might be extended is if the child has a disability that causes them to be financially dependent on a parent. Washington courts have discretion to order ongoing support in these situations, taking into consideration the nature and extent of the disability and the child's self-sufficiency capabilities.

Postsecondary Educational Support

Washington law also addresses the issue of postsecondary educational support. Parents can be required to contribute to their child's college expenses or other educational costs after they turn 18. However, this is not automatic and must be requested before the child reaches age 18 or graduates from high school. The court considers several factors when determining whether to award postsecondary educational support, including the parents' expectations prior to dissolution, the child's academic performance, and both the needs and resources of the child and parents.

Court Discretion and Agreements Between Parents

The continuation of child support for an adult child often hinges on the specific circumstances of each case and the discretion of the court. Parents may also enter into agreements that extend or modify support obligations beyond what is typically required by law.

Historical Context and Legal Precedents

Over time, Washington's approach to extended child support has evolved through legislative reforms and legal precedents. Notable cases such as In re Marriage of McCausland have shaped how courts interpret parental obligations towards adult children with disabilities. This dynamic legal landscape underscores the importance of consulting with a knowledgeable attorney who can provide current advice tailored to individual circumstances.


The issue of child support for adult children in Washington involves a complex interplay between statutory mandates and judicial discretion. Understanding these laws is crucial for parents navigating post-majority support. For further guidance, it's advisable to review official resources or seek legal counsel.