Washington state recognizes that each parent has the legal duty to support his children and provide them with the necessary resources to meet their needs. Child support is computed based on the total of each parent's income and compared to the statutory guideline that lists the number and ages of the children. Depending on the family's circumstances and the terms of the court order, a parent can be required to pay child support until his child turns 18, graduates from high school or finishes college.
Age of Majority
Typically, a parent's child support obligation ends when the child turns 18. But if she has already turned 18 and is still attending high school full-time, Washington law continues the support obligation until the child turns 19 or graduates, whichever occurs first.
Although the child support obligation ends when the child turns 18 or graduates high school, the paying parent is still legally responsible for all overdue support payments. The statute of limitations for collecting past-due child support in Washington is 10 years from the date that each child support payment became due. This means that each late payment begins a new 10-year period.
Post-Secondary Educational Support
Washington state allows the court to order a parent to pay for post-secondary educational support. This amount may be different from the child support amount determined by the statutory guidelines. A standard child support order from the state's Division of Child Support does not contain a provision for post-secondary school support, so the parent must first seek a new order or modify an existing order for this type of support. The court considers several [factors when considering whether to order post-secondary educational support,] (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=26.19.090), including:
- the child's age
- the child's needs
- the parents' expectations of the child
- the child's aptitudes, abilities and prospects
- the nature of the post-secondary education being sought, and
- the parent's current and future resources
Child support cannot be ordered past the child's 23rd birthday, unless he is disabled or there are other exceptional circumstances.
A family court can order immediate garnishment if the parent responsible for child support has earnings. The court issues a garnishment order that the custodial parent serves on the paying parent's employer. The Division of Child Support of the Washington State Department of Health and Social Services is responsible for administering child support in the state, and in most cases, the employer sends child support payments directly to that agency. Even if the court does not order immediate garnishment, it can do so once a child support payment becomes past due without having to notify the paying parent.