When you and your spouse divorce, or if you never married your child’s mother or father, you may wonder how long you will be paying child support. It isn’t always easy knowing how much money is going toward your support payments each month, even if you know how they benefit your child. On the other hand, if you are receiving those payments, it’s hard to think about the day they will end.

When a child turns 18 or graduates

In Virginia, as in most states, parents are legally obligated to pay child support until a child is 18 or emancipated. If your child turns 18 before graduating high school and is still living with the custodial parent and isn’t self-supporting, then child support payments continue until the child is 19 or graduates from high school, whichever comes first.

If your child has special needs or disabilities, both parents have an equal responsibility to support their child longer, if the child is still living with the custodial parent and can’t live independently.

Paying for college

Most states don’t require parents to pay for their children’s college education. However, in some divorce agreements, a parent is ordered to pay a share of higher education costs. When courts evaluate if you should be required to pay college expenses, they look at the following:

  • The financial resources of both parents
  • The standard of living the child had during the marriage or would have if the marriage hadn’t ended
  • The financial resources of the child (including financial aid and scholarships)
  • The child’s academic performance (whether your child was going to be attending college or not)

There is no set formula for paying for college for your child, like there is when it comes to child support. Also, when your child graduates or is self-supporting, you often will no longer need to pay those college expenses.

If you have questions about whether you may be required to pay college expenses in a divorce settlement, contact an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help you determine what your child support level may be and if you may need to pay for higher education expenses.